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What Can We Learn from 2019’s National Teacher of the Year Rodney Robinson?

National teacher of the Year for 2019, Rodney Robinson, affirms a known fact. To be a good teacher you need to be an expert in your field. But if you want to be a great teacher, you also need to be a kind and caring human being.

And while many circumstances separate Mr. Robinson from most of his peers, others are the same. The approach he uses and the care applied is something everyone can and should copy.

His well-deserved award is a testament to good teaching values. For most of us still struggling to manage our classroom, Mr. Robinson is a true hero.

Who is Rodney Robinson?

Rodney Alexander Robinson is a kind and dedicated educator.

While only 41 years of age, he has over a decade of educational experience with students of different ages. This Virginian has taught both middle and high school students and is remembered by those who graduated as a dedicated teacher.

Currently, Mr. Robinson is teaching at Virgie Binford Education Center. This is a school located inside the Richmond Juvenile Detention Center and caters to students with troubled pasts. The nature of this facility is what gave Rodney a new perspective on teaching.

When it comes to children who have been dealt a bad hand in life, few have it worse than those already in detention facilities. Aside from diminished practical educational conditions, these kids are also emotionally troubled and need more care and patience.

But Mr. Robinson took it upon himself to help however he can. The result was a new hope for the students of RJDC and a possibility for them to have a brighter future.

Rodney Robinson on Twitter @RodRobinsonRVA

Believing in Second Chances

Rodney Robinson believes in second chances. In his own words, America is the nation of second chances. And nobody needs that chance more than kids who have strayed on a bad path.

Everything in this regard can be done under the same mantra: If we give them a chance and stay patient, we will see results.

This can be taken to heart by any teacher. Sure, there are rowdy and misbehaved children in any class, but that doesn’t mean that they are bad kids. Some students might need a different approach or more attention in order to grow as people and show their full potential.

Treating All Kids as Valuable

Even though it is expected for all teachers to be supermen and superwomen, this is sadly not the case. All people are people, and all of us come to the class with our own experiences, preconceptions, and ideas.

It is not like we can do something about these issues in advance. Primarily, we don’t think that these ideas and thoughts are bad, or we would change them.

But what we can never do is let our students suffer because of our ways of thinking. Mr. Robinson’s approach teaches us to accept every child as valuable and full of potential and to accept them as they are.

The fact that the behavior of some children won’t be ideal shouldn’t prevent you from reaching out to them. There is a gem hidden in every child, and it is up to us to find it.

Teach Useful Things

Because Mr. Robinson teaches in a juvenile facility, he can’t be certain how long he will have with each student. That is why he needs to focus on the important information, as well as that which will serve his students the most.

Thankfully. while most teachers can rely on some consistency and have more time, this is not a bad pointer to take.

We often see students lose interest in the middle of the school year. Either because they are too advanced or lagging, the classes won’t be interesting to them. And this is because the modern curriculum has a lot of introduction before you get to the good part.

For most subjects, the good part is only when you go to college. Before that moment it is all abstract and contextual information.

You can change that by cutting out the excess and focusing on what your students can use right this moment. You can place additional reading materials and a wider context online, or even give it out as homework.

Keep Yourself in the Moment

You should make a plan before starting your class. There needs to be some structure when it comes to curriculum planning and resource gathering.

But once your lesson starts, you should stay in the moment and give yourself entirely to the class. Let the students use your knowledge, as well as your experience however they can. This will allow you to tell them what they want to know as well as what they need.

Such a type of learning is relatively new and would probably be frowned upon by our some of our peers. But this isn’t letting the reigns of the class go. It is more like letting the children find their path with yourself only as a guide and not a commander.

Stay Adaptable

This point is predicated on the last two. If you have reduced your lecture to its bare essence and are keeping your presence without distractions, you will be able to adapt easily.

The fact that you haven’t explained the entire context doesn’t mean that there isn’t any. At some point, your students might have questions in that regard, and this is where you can expound.

You will be amazed at how much information the students already have. Because of this, if you are adaptable, you will progress with the lesson much faster and make it much more interesting for your students.

Be Kind

While it may sound redundant, this should be repeated for every teacher and even every person. When dealing with people, regardless if they are young or old, you should strive to be as kind as you possibly can.

A teacher’s job is very stressful. If we have any stress at home, it is no secret that we should try to leave it there. But you should take a few minutes every day to meditate, relax, and focus on being kind to the people around you. This won’t only help your students and your job, but your life in general.


The 2019 teacher of the year award goes, deservedly, to Rodney Robinson. And while his circumstance is specific, his approach should be universal.

He approaches his students with kindness and dedication. This stems from his belief that every student is valuable and deserves a chance to get an education and have prosperity in life.

That job isn’t easy. Every teacher will need a lot of time, focus, and nerves to find the best in every student. But many teachers would agree that it is the most rewarding thing this job can offer.