August 12, 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.