Rodney Robinson, the 2019 National Teacher of the Year

Rodney Robinson, the 2019 National Teacher of the Year, will visit Longwood University next month to meet with students and faculty and discuss his whole-child approach to education, as well as his efforts to improve equity in educational opportunities.

Robinson will be the special guest at an evening discussion on Monday, Feb. 24, at 7:30 p.m., that is free and open to the public. The event will be held in Blackwell Ballroom in the Maugans Alumni Center on Longwood’s campus. While in Farmville, Robinson will also meet with area teachers and students attending Prince Edward County Schools.

[The award] means my students have an advocate who is going to tell their stories and fight for the resources they need to be successful. I didn’t get into [teaching] for this. I just got into it to help students and fight for them.

Rodney Robinson, the 2019 National Teacher of the Year Tweet This

Robinson has taught in several middle and high schools in Richmond over his 19-year career. Since 2015, he has taught social studies at Virgie Binford Education Center, a school inside the Richmond Juvenile Detention Center. Robinson’s work at Virgie Binford has given him the opportunity to learn more about the school-to-prison pipeline as well as to work toward his goal of expanding his students’ horizons. He describes his teaching as a whole-child approach that helps his students gain both the academic and socio-emotional skills that will allow them to move beyond past mistakes and pursue their dreams for a better future.  

“[The award] means my students have an advocate who is going to tell their stories and fight for the resources they need to be successful,” Robinson said after he was named the 2019 National Teacher of the Year last April. “I didn’t get into [teaching] for this. I just got into it to help students and fight for them.”

The National Teacher of the Year is awarded by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), which wrote in their award announcement that Robinson creates a positive school culture by empowering his students—many of whom have experienced trauma—to become civically minded social advocates who use their skills and voices to effect physical and policy changes at their schools and in their communities.

Robinson has spent much of the past year travelling nationally and internationally as a representative and advocate of committed teachers and their students. He has also worked with the Yale University National Initiative to design and implement a curriculum focusing on the history of youth incarceration and the juvenile justice system in American society. This passion has expanded into broader advocacy efforts centered on improving equity in educational opportunities. Robinson has said that he hopes to use the platform to “be the voice for my students and all students who feel unseen, unheard, unappreciated and undervalued in America.”

Robinson was inspired to enter the teaching field by his mother, Sylvia, who grew up in rural Virginia at a time when segregation and poverty kept her from realizing her own educational potential. His interest in coming to Longwood stems from the university’s excellence in teacher preparation as well as the work of the university’s Call Me MISTER (Men Instructing Students Toward Effective Role Models) Program. When Robinson speaks to groups now, he emphasizes the importance of students’ having teachers who look like them, who understand their culture and who share aspects of their experiences. He supports efforts to improve the diversity of the teacher pipeline by recruiting more minority men into teaching, a mission he shares with the Call Me MISTER program.    

In addition to the public event on Feb. 24, Robinson is scheduled to meet with Longwood students who are pursuing teaching careers, participate in an evening reception with faculty and invited guests and provide an inspirational address to students at Prince Edward County High School. Current and past participants in Longwood’s Call Me MISTER program will also have an opportunity to meet with Robinson and discuss their own educational paths during a lunch meeting at the Moton Museum.

For information on Robinson’s visit, including the public event on Feb. 24, contact the Office of the Associate Dean of the College of Education and Human Services at 434-395-2609. 

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