Rodney RobinsonNational Teacher of the Year
Virgie Binford Education Center
National Teacher of the Year Rodney Robinson is a 19-year education veteran. He became a teacher to honor his mother, who struggled to receive an education after being denied one as a child because of segregation and poverty in rural Virginia. In 2015, Robinson started teaching at Virgie Binford Education Center, a school inside the Richmond Juvenile Detention Center, in an effort to better understand the school-to-prison pipeline.
Robinson uses the whole child approach to education to help the students who are most vulnerable. His classroom is a collaborative partnership between himself and his students and is anchored in him providing a civic-centered education that promotes social-emotional growth. Robinson uses the knowledge he has gained from his students to develop alternative programs to prevent students from entering the school-to-prison pipeline.
Robinson has focused great deal of his efforts on the need for mental health services in schools and singles out the stigma surrounding treatment.
“I want school counselors, I want conflict mediators, I want restorative justice, I want people to come in and actually work with the kids and not just put a kid in handcuffs whenever there is a minor disagreement,” Robinson told WCVE Radio in Richmond.
Robinson has been published three times by Yale University and has received numerous awards for his accomplishments in and out of the classroom, most notably the R.E.B. Award for Teaching Excellence. He is a member of Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney’s Education Compact Team, which includes politicians, educators, business leaders, and community leaders, and is working with city leaders and local colleges to recruit underrepresented male teachers into the field of education. He has also worked with Pulitzer Award winning author James Foreman on developing curriculum units on race, class, and punishment as a part of the Yale Teacher’s Institute.
Robinson earned a Bachelor of arts in history from Virginia State University and a master’s in educational administration and supervision from Virginia Commonwealth University.
Robinson is standing up for students who “feel unseen, unheard, unappreciated, and undervalued in America,” said NEA President Lily Eskelsen García. “He is not only a beacon of light but also a mentor, a leader and a role model in the fight for racial and social justice in education….Every student in every public school in this country deserves a teacher like Mr. Robinson no matter their ZIP code or their circumstances.”
“This year I hope to be the voice for my students and all students who feel unseen, unheard, unappreciated and undervalued in America,” Robinson said.