February 18, 2020

Teacher of the Year: ‘It’s About Touching Their Hearts’

National Teacher of the Year Rodney Robinson spoke of his quest to bring equity to the classroom last night at UMW’s Dodd Auditorium. Photos by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

National Teacher of the Year Rodney Robinson spoke of his quest to bring equity to the classroom last night at UMW’s Dodd Auditorium. Photos by Suzanne Carr Rossi.

Children need to feel safe, understood and loved in order to find success in the classroom. That’s the message 2019 National Teacher of the Year Rodney Robinson delivered last night in UMW’s Dodd Auditorium.

“It’s about relationships,” said Robinson, who teaches history at the Richmond Juvenile Detention Center’s Virgie Binford Education Center. “It’s about touching their hearts and making them want to change.”

He had one word for teaching, especially in the prison system: tough. Robinson believes teachers must meet students’ basic, social and emotional needs before tackling academics. He urged educators – many of whom were in the audience of about 200 – to get to know their students, empathize with them and create culturally responsive curricula that take into account the students’ interests and experiences as human beings.

“Every day, everything I do is viewed through a lens of equity,” Robinson said. “I believe that all students can learn and it’s everybody’s job to help teach the children.” Read more.

Teacher of the Year Shares Mission of Equity at UMW

Rodney Robinson, the 2019 National Teacher of the Year, will speak to aspiring educators from UMW’s College of Education and the local community on Wednesday, Jan. 29, at 6 p.m. in Dodd Auditorium.

Rodney Robinson, the 2019 National Teacher of the Year, will speak to aspiring educators from UMW’s College of Education and the local community on Wednesday, Jan. 29, at 6 p.m. in Dodd Auditorium.

Rodney Robinson was inspired to become a teacher because of his mother. Growing up in rural Virginia, segregation and poverty hindered her own education, but it didn’t stop her from finding her calling teaching young children in her home daycare.

“She always taught us that every child deserves the proper amount of love to get where he or she needs,” Robinson said.

Named 2019 National Teacher of the Year, he will share his teaching philosophies, and his support of economic and cultural equity in the classroom, with aspiring educators from UMW’s College of Education and the local community. The talk will take place next Wednesday, Jan. 29, at 6 p.m. in Dodd Auditorium.

Robinson said he took his mother’s lesson, which he shared recently with his alma mater, Virginia State University (VSU), to heart. Since 2015, he’s taught history at a juvenile detention center in Richmond, believing that access to a quality education and empathetic teachers can be keys to success for these students.

“Mr. Robinson is making a positive difference in the lives of students who need it the most,” said Pete Kelly, Dean of UMW’s College of Education. “As the National Teacher of the Year, he has an important story to tell, and I encourage everyone to come hear him speak.” Read more.

Kelly Interviewed on Launch of Spotsylvania Future Educators Program

College of Education Dean Pete Kelly

College of Education Dean Pete Kelly

College of Education Dean Pete Kelly was interviewed for a Free Lance-Star article entitled “Spotsylvania Future Educators Academy hopes to empower students to meet the teacher shortage.” It describes a new program launched in Spotsylvania County Public Schools this year that gives students from all five Spotsylvania high schools the opportunity to learn more about child development, teaching and lesson planning. The program also gives students hands-on experience helping out in Spotsylvania elementary and middle school classrooms, and the opportunity to visit teacher education programs at the University of Mary Washington and Shenandoah University in Winchester. Read more. 


Causarano to Give Free Lecture on “Race and Education in Fascist Italy,” Oct. 11

Antonio Causarano, associate professor of education.

Antonio Causarano, associate professor of education.

Antonio Causarano, associate professor of education, will give a presentation titled “Race and Education in Fascist Italy” about Italian dictator Benito Mussolini’s education program. According to The Free Lance-Star, “It will focus on ‘the historical aspects of race in fascist Italy and how the ideology of race was an integral part of the education of fascist youth during the 20 years of fascist regime,’ he said.”  Sponsored by the Fredericksburg-Este Association, the free lecture is open to the public and will be held on Friday, Oct. 11 at 7 p.m. at St. George’s Episcopal Church at 905 Princess Anne St. Read more. 

College of Education Puts Out Call for Proposals for STREAM Conference Oct. 26

The College of Education will host our new STREAM Conference on Saturday, October 26, 2019 from 9 to 1 p.m. STREAM education takes STEM and expands it to include reading and the arts because we know those are other important ways to teach 21st century skills to our students. We are currently putting out a call for proposals for our conference. We are looking for faculty, teachers, administrators, coaches, librarians…anyone who has innovative and engaging ideas they want to share with other educators in the area that use STREAM education to promote 21st century skills in the classroom. Ideas for sessions include using augmented and virtual reality, 3D printing, and the design process to enhance teaching and learning in schools.

There will be 3 different types of sessions for which we need presenters:

  • Open sessions – where participants can come in and gets hands-on experience building activities or learning skills with the help of an expert. This is a time to play and explore with new ideas.
  • Workshop – where participants are walked through an activity and leave with something they can take into their classroom. This is more structured than the open session.
  • Presentations – participants can hear about ideas and strategies that are being used in the classroom and how they can integrate them into theirs.

Please share with educators who you believe would be great potential presenters. We are looking for presenters from all different subjects and grade levels. They can go to https://sites.google.com/view/coestreamconference/home for more information and to fill out the call-for-presenters form. We will be taking proposals until September 20, 2019. Presenters will be notified by September 27, 2019 if their proposal was accepted for this year’s conference.

Please contact Kristina Peck, Director of Clinical Experiences, at (540) 654-1351 or kpeck@umw.edu if you have any questions.


Meadows Provides 3D Design/Printing Workshops in Borneo

George Meadows working with Hutan Education team

George Meadows, professor in the College of Education, recently delivered a series of on-site workshops on 3D printing and design to an Education Team from HUTAN. Headquartered in Sukau, Malaysia, HUTAN is a French NGO that researches Malaysian Borneo wildlife including Oranghutan and Pygmy Elephant. The Education team works with local people, focusing on issues linked to human-wildlife interaction. They hope to use the 3D printer to build models that can be used in their teaching. Meadows has worked with HUTAN several times in the past on both educational issues and technical issues such as the use of video-equipped drones to survey re-forestation efforts.

Russell Named Associate Director of Center for Teaching

A message from UMW Provost Nina Mikhalevsky:

Associate Director of UMW’s Center for Teaching and Associate Professor of Education Victoria Russell

Associate Director of UMW’s Center for Teaching and Associate Professor of Education Victoria Russell

Dr. Victoria Russell has accepted the position of Associate Director of UMW’s Center for Teaching. Victoria is an Associate Professor in the College of Education and former Program Director in Special Education. She received her Ed.D. from George Washington University in Special Education (2005), Master’s degrees in both History (1995) and Curriculum & Instruction (1996) from the College of William and Mary and a B.A. in History from Loyola University New Orleans (1993).

Victoria brings a wealth of professional development experience to this position. She has over 20 years of teaching experience in both K-12 and university settings and was a special education teacher in Maryland public schools. She specializes in inclusive practices and assessment and has had considerable experience thinking through accessible curriculum design and teaching these practices to future teachers. Victoria will be starting in this new position on June 25.

John Broome: Courageous Conversations

College of Education Associate Professor John Broome keeps his worst student course evaluation from his first year at UMW displayed in his office, right beside his teaching award. For him, it’s a constant reminder that he should always strive for improvement as an educator.

College of Education Associate Professor John Broome. Photo by Norm Shafer.

College of Education Associate Professor John Broome. Photo by Norm Shafer.

Broome believes that American educators need to focus their attention on being better teachers to children from all backgrounds. In the classroom, he and his students engage in discussions about race and racism, equity, privilege, implicit bias, youth trauma and poverty to understand the complex web of issues affecting schoolchildren across Virginia and the United States.

“When you have students impacted by these factors, then teaching, learning and classroom environments look different. You have to meet your students where they are with positive expectations for their ability and growth,” said Broome, who has a Ph.D. in education from the University of Virginia, an M.Ed. in curriculum and instruction from George Mason University and a B.A. in government from The College of William and Mary.

That’s why Broome, whose research focuses on social justice, critical race theory and civic education, was eager to participate in Courageous Conversations, a new video series featuring UMW faculty discussing diversity and inclusion. But he wants his students to think of these topics not as courageous but normalized and present in every classroom.

“We need to work toward having a more open, honest dialogue about the lived and historical experiences of all peoples in our country,” said Broome, who has taught secondary social studies in public and private schools across Virginia. “When more than half of students in our country are Black, Indigenous and People of Color, all students should not just learn more about these histories, but from their own voices as well.”



Q: Are there are any projects you enjoy having your students do?
A: My students enjoy the culture quilt project, in which they divide a poster board into 16 squares like a quilt. They use pictures, words and phrases to explore their family histories, their professional and personal cultural selves and other cultures that are unfamiliar to them. It’s an opportunity for students to self-interrogate, understand who they are and become more accepting of others.

Q: How did you come to direct the Hungry Brains! program at Hazel Hill?
A: I’ve been involved since 2012. It’s an after-school program for economically disadvantaged K-8 students in downtown Fredericksburg that is entirely UMW student-run. It empowers student leadership responsibilities while addressing the academic needs of children in this community. We’ve also helped with fundraising. On Valentine’s Day 2018, my students and I sold candy-grams on UMW’s campus so that Hazel Hill students could open their first savings accounts as part of a financial literacy project. I’ve raised money to help build their library and purchase new technology for the Center.

Associate Professor of Education John Broome with his class. Photo by Norm Shafer.

Associate Professor of Education John Broome with his class. Photo by Norm Shafer.

Q: You encourage your students to use culturally responsive teaching practices. How does that improve learning in the classroom?
A: This centers culture in all aspects of learning. It includes having high expectations of all students; being more student-centered; becoming more culturally competent; building the relationships between schools, families and community; learning the contexts of diversity and cultures; and reframing the curriculum. My work is mostly on the curriculum and what it means when students don’t see their multiple identities reflected in what they are learning.

Q: What is one piece of advice you give to aspiring educators to make their classrooms more inclusive?
A: How you teach is often more important than what you teach. You never know what is going on in the life of a child.

Q: Who or what inspires you?
A: My wife inspires me. She was a first-in-family college graduate from a small town in Oregon. Multiple degrees later, she is a dean at another university. She’s absolutely brilliant.

Q: What would you be doing if you were not a professor?
A: I would be an international travel and food writer, a chef or an electronic dance music DJ. In addition to going to EDM shows regularly in D.C. around the United States, my wife and I are traveling to festivals in Holland, Finland and Belgium this year.

Q: What would people be most surprised to learn about you?
A: In college, I had a pet duck named Clyde, who snored when he slept on you. It was adorable.

Q: Are there any mottos that you live by?
A: “I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.” ~James Baldwin

Q: What books are you reading right now or have you read recently that inspired you?
A: “We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom” by Bettina L. Love, an associate professor at the University of Georgia.


COE Partners to Debut ‘Intelligent Lives’ Documentary

The award-winning documentary Intelligent Lives will premiere on the Fredericksburg campus Thursday, March 7, from noon to 3:30 p.m. in the Hurley Convergence Center Digital Auditorium. A panel discussion will follow the film, which stars three pioneering young adults with intellectual disabilities – Micah, Naieer, and Naomie – who challenge perceptions of intelligence as they navigate high school, college, and the workforce.

The documentary is co-hosted by UMW’s College of Education and Gladys H. Oberle School in Fredericksburg. Admission is free, but registration is requested at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/intelligent-lives-tickets-54981928428.

“Intelligent Lives is a film to help us better understand the value and potential of the lives of people with intellectual disabilities by challenging our assumptions about intelligence, said COB Dean Peter Kelly. “I am grateful to partner with the Gladys H. Oberle School to share this important learning experience with students, teachers, and educators in the area.”

Academy Award-winning actor and narrator Chris Cooper contextualizes the lives of these central characters through the emotional story of his son Jesse, as the film unpacks the shameful and ongoing track record of intelligence testing in the U.S.

“People with intellectual disabilities are the most segregated of all Americans,” said Dan Habib, a New Hampshire-based filmmaker who is the documentary’s producer, director and cinematographer. “Only 17 percent of students with intellectual disabilities are included in regular education. Just 40 percent will graduate from high school. And of the 6.5 million Americans with intellectual disability, barely 15 percent are employed.”

Meadows Presents at Leadership Learning Exchange

George Meadows, professor in the College of Education, presented at the Spotsylvania County Schools Leadership Learning Exchange program on June 24. The title of his presentation was “In the Sandbox with Dr. Meadows: Makerspaces, Engineering, Robotics and New Technology for Your Classrooms.”

During the presentation, participants explored several new technologies and Meadows demonstrated and discussed possible applications in education. The technologies included 3-D printers and scanners, alternative input devices, circuitry components such as LittleBits and Circuit Stickers, and physical computing devices such as the Hummingbird board and the Arduino. Meadows also discussed the role of engineering labs/makerspaces and examples of existing educational makerspaces.