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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

The main message he also plans to share?

“I want to talk about how to work with all students — that you have to love them, appreciate them and value them.

“I teach from love, empathy and compassion,” he continued, “and always try to treat each student as the most important person in my life.”

RPS Superintendent Jason Kamras, who was National Teacher of the Year in 2005 when he was working in the District of Columbia, was joyful about Mr. Robinson’s award.

“There is no one more honorable or more deserving of this extraordinary award than Mr. Robinson,” Mr. Kamras texted to the Free Press. “Mr. Robinson stands for everything we stand for at RPS.”

A native of King William County, Mr. Robinson was inspired to become an educator by his mother, Sylvia Robinson, who had an in-home day care center and taught GED classes at Richmond’s Armstrong High School when he was growing up in Church Hill.

He graduated from Virginia State University in 2000 and later earned a master’s in educational administration and supervision from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2011.

His first job was teaching civics and economics at Richmond’s Lucille M. Brown Middle School in 2000, followed by teaching world geography, history and government at George Wythe and Armstrong high schools before teaching at Virgie Binford Education Center.

He was chosen 2018 RPS Teacher of the year in November 2017, and was recognized as the 2019 Virginia Teacher of the Year in October during a ceremony where he was brought to tears. He talked at the time about how he has his students at Virgie Binford engage in volunteer work to help them understand the need and importance of giving back to the community.

Among their volunteer work: Voter registration drives, work with Boys and Girls Clubs, cleanup efforts at historical African-American cemeteries and at the former Lumpkin’s Jail site in Shockoe Bottom, a former slave pen that in 1865 became a school and the origins of Virginia Union University. He considers the experiences a part of the life experiences that students can learn from.

“You always have to walk what you preach,” Mr. Robinson told the Free Press on Wednesday. “I always try to model the best example for my students, co-workers and colleagues,” he said.

“This year, I hope to be the voice for my students and all students who feel unseen, unheard, unappreciated and undervalued in America.”

The three other finalists for 2019 National Teacher of the Year were Donna Gradell of Oklahoma, Kelly Harper of Washington, D.C., and Danielle Riha of Alaska.