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Man Who Teaches Incarcerated Children In Honor Of His Mom Named National Teacher Of The Year

Man Who Teaches Incarcerated Children In Honor Of His Mom Named National Teacher Of The Year

Rodney Robinson also wants people to understand "the importance of culturally competent educators and recruiting teachers who look like my students and represent them and my culture" because he strongly believes all students benefit from diversity.

Earlier, not a lot of people were able to have a proper education. There were several reasons why this happened. Take Rodney Robinson's mom, for example. She grew up during segregation, so she wasn't able to graduate from high school due to poverty. For someone who did not have the privilege of education, she taught her son to value learning. According to CNN, he took that lesson to heart and became a teacher.  He also became the National Teacher of the Year by the Council of Chief State School Officers. Robinson teaches at Virgie Binford Education Center, a school inside the Richmond Juvenile Detention Center in Virginia.



 

"He 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 affect physical and policy changes at their school and in their communities," the council said in a statement. The honoree is selected out of 50 state teachers of the year from the states, including the Department of Defense Education Activity, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, the US Virgin Islands, and American Samoa.



 

Thanks to his mom, Robinson learned how to appreciate education. Robinson, who is now 40-years-old, grew up in King William County in Virginia. Robinson spoke about how he remembers waiting for his mom to finish her classes so she could take him to football practice. He also said his mom always wanted to be a teacher, but sadly circumstances did not allow her to be one. 



 

Sylvia Robinson grew up in rural Virginia, where "segregation and poverty stripped her of the opportunity to graduate high school and go to college," Robinson said. Since she could not become a teacher, she started her own day-care facility, where Robinson said she "taught lessons of equity and love." Robinson saw his mom transform while she pursued her GED, and that's when he decided to become a teacher.



 

He went on to become a  history and social studies teacher and has been teaching students for 19 years. He says his current students are no different from the regular high school students. "They're typical students but, unfortunately, they have made mistakes and are now paying for those mistakes," said Robinson. It was in 2015 that Robinson began teaching at the juvenile detention center because he wanted to understand the school-to-prison pipeline. 



 

This pipeline refers to strict policies which push students from disadvantaged backgrounds to leave school and become imprisoned.  Virgie Binford has several students that come from high-crime areas and live in impoverished backgrounds. They have also had negative contact with schools and the judicial system, according to Principal Ta'Neisha Ford. He also said their goal is to help these students fall back in love with education. 



 

"(Robinson) allows students to really shine and he gives them the tools to succeed," Ford said. They also wish to instill a sense of confidence in them, along with hope for a better future. "(I want them to know that) you're important and you have a place in this world and you can achieve your goals," Robinson said. "Jail is only a temporary setback." Which is why Robinson claims he's honored to have won the teacher of the year title because it helps him let other people know of the work he and his school are doing. 



 

"It was a chance to tell my students' stories -- the story of them trying to do better," Robinson said. He is also working towards reducing the dropout rates from school because people without high school diplomas are most likely to end up in prison! Robinson also wants people to understand "the importance of culturally competent educators and recruiting teachers who look like my students and represent them and my culture," because he strongly believes all students benefit from diversity.



 

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