Head of the class!

Richmond Public Schools teacher Rodney A. Robinson, who mentors and inspires students at the Richmond Juvenile Detention Center, wins 2019 National Teacher of the Year

Jeremy M. Lazarus | , Ronald E. Carrington | 4/26/2019, 6 a.m.
Rodney A. Robinson, the 40-year-old history and social studies teacher who inspires students each and every day inside the Richmond ...
Rodney A. Robinson

Rodney A. Robinson, the 40-year-old history and social studies teacher who inspires students each and every day inside the Richmond Juvenile Detention Center, where he has worked at the Virgie Binford Education Center since 2015, has been named 2019 National Teacher of the Year.

The announcement was made to a national television audience Wednesday on “CBS This Morning,” where Mr. Robinson was interviewed on the show’s New York set by Gayle King.

He was chosen from a field of four finalists for the award presented by the Council of Chief State School Officers and is the first Richmond Public Schools teacher — and the third in Virginia history — to receive the national title.

In the announcement, the council lauded him for creating 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 affect physical and policy changes at their school and in their communities.

He uses a whole child approach to help his students gain the academic, social and emotional skills they need to move beyond their past mistakes and pursue their dreams for a better future, the council stated.

“Every student in this country deserves access to a teacher who is committed to their success,” said Carissa Moffat Miller, executive director of the council that identifies exceptional teachers across the country and seeks to recognize and amplify their work.

“I congratulate Rodney Robinson on this outstanding recognition and look forward to him engaging in conversations across the country about ways to address the school-to-prison pipeline and improve educational equity for all students.”

Mr. Robinson’s characteristic vibrant smile and humble attitude shined through during the interview with Ms. King, that also included video of Virgie Binford principal Ta’Neshia Ford recounting how she convinced him to come and work with the unique population of students in juvenile detention. Two of his former students — he has been teaching since 2000 — also were interviewed. Both are now teachers themselves.

In a telephone interview later Wednesday morning with the Free Press, an excited Mr. Robinson said he learned about six weeks ago that he had won the nation’s top teaching award, but had to keep it a secret until the formal announcement.

“I wanted to scream from the top of City Hall!” he said, but he shared the news only with his wife, Summer Joy Robinson, who teaches in the elementary school program for gifted students.

Mr. Robinson will receive the award May 2 in Washington as he and other state teachers of the year gather for a gala and presentation that will include a meeting with President Trump.

He will spend the next 12 months speaking at schools and educational events around the country and internationally “advocating for kids and for cultural and economic equity,” he said. “That means ensuring (students) have the resources they need to be successful and that more resources are provided to students that need them and, on the cultural front, that they have teachers that appreciate them and, if possible, look like them.”