Rodney A. Robinson, national teacher of the year, returns to RPS in new role

Ronald E. Carrington | 8/13/2020, 6 p.m.
Rodney A. Robinson, whose successful and inspiring work with students at the Richmond Juvenile Detention Center propelled him into the …
Mr. Robinson

Rodney A. Robinson, whose successful and inspiring work with students at the Richmond Juvenile Detention Center propelled him into the national spotlight as the 2019 National Teacher of the Year, has been named a senior adviser for Richmond Public Schools.

In his new role that started Aug. 4, Mr. Robinson will be overseeing the RPS initiative for supporting and recruiting more male teachers of color.

Currently, of the 2,221 teachers working in RPS, 243 are Black men and 16 are Hispanic men.

In a Free Press interview, Mr. Robinson expressed his excitement about the coming year and talked about the goals.

As senior adviser, he leaves behind his job as a history and social studies teacher at the Virgie Binford Education Center inside the city’s juvenile detention center, where he taught middle and high school students.

He now will center his attention on supporting Black men and other male teachers of color and will play a key role in the division’s efforts to establish partnerships with organizations that will help RPS recruit and support male teachers of color.

Additionally, he will be a major player in the execution of the school district’s anti-racism policy agenda and will work closely with the RPS Talent Office to create mentorship opportunities for new teachers.

After completing his yearlong duties as the 2019 National Teacher of the year, Mr. Robinson is excited about returning to RPS to ensure the system increases the number

of minority male teachers. Although Mr. Robinson had several offers from national organizations, he wanted to come back home to work with and support RPS.

“We have to keep the minority teachers we have,” he said, comparing the situation to pouring water in a bucket filled with holes. “If we don’t do that, we won’t make any progress.”

Through RPS partnerships with colleges and universities as well as national relationships he established during the past year, Mr. Robinson plans to feed the pipeline of Black and Latino male teachers hired and moving up the ladder in RPS.

Statistics show that students do best when they have teachers who look like them and appreciate them, their culture and struggles in America, Mr. Robinson said.

RPS has roughly 25,000 students. According to data, 69 percent are Black, 16 percent are Latino, 12 percent are Caucasian and 1 percent are Asian.

“We want to have more minority male principals, counselors and administrators,” Mr. Robinson said.

“Men of color are typically denied professional development and advancement as they are overburdened because they are given security-type details” within schools, he said.

In his new role, Mr. Robinson said he wants to make sure they are respected for their knowledge, abilities and teaching expertise.

RPS’ new talent officer, Sandra K. Lee, said she is thrilled to work with Mr. Robinson and has clear expectations for his role.

Teaching is challenging work, she said, and Mr. Robinson will help support teachers as classroom practitioners and in the daily, sometime unconscious, mentoring role men of color have.

“We know teaching experiences are different for different people. For male teachers of color, there are a lot of different supports needed for their success,” Ms. Lee said. “As a 19-year veteran of RPS, Mr. Robinson has lived through those experiences and can structure an effective mentoring-coaching program that will be effective and work.”

Superintendent Jason Kamras said RPS is happy to have Mr. Robinson take on the new role.

“We want to make sure that male teach- ers of color have all of the support they need to be successful and really have a career,” Mr. Kamras said. “There is no one better in America than Mr. Robinson to lead this effort.”