National Teacher of Year inspires Penn Manor staff

Nearly 600 Penn Manor teachers, adminstrators and staff were inspired by the words of Rodney Robinson, the 2019 National Teacher of the Year, as he discussed issues of equity during a live-streamed presentation April 24.

During his hour-long talk, Robinson discussed the need for both economic and cultural equity in classrooms and how teachers first must get to know their students before any real learning can begin.

“Kids do not care how much you know until they know how much you care,” said Robinson, a 19-year veteran social studies teacher who recently taught at Virgie Binford Education Center, a school inside the Richmond, Va., Juvenile Detention Center.

Robinson talked about how staff members strive to make the center look and feel like a regular school, with inspirational quotes and college banners on the walls – even though it’s located inside a juvenile prison. And students are treated as teenagers, not criminals.

 “Never assume anything about your kids,” he said. “Each student is different, and a good teacher always gives the students love and what they need, not what is equal.”

Robinson also discussed how the vast disparities in discipline in America’s schools are feeding the school-to-prison pipeline that disproportionately impacts students of color.

“Being culturally responsive to your students is not teaching based on stereotypes, but teaching based on relationships and getting to know your students’ interests, history, and cultural norms,” he said.

Robinson’s talk was timely, as Penn Manor School District has made economic and educational equity for all students its top priority the past two years, according to Penn Manor superintendent Mike Leichliter.

“Rodney’s reminder that ‘every child deserves the proper amount of love to get what he or she needs’ is so important, especially in the midst of our current national emergency,” Leichliter said.

“Mr. Robinson reminded us that the single most impactful way a teacher can help a student is to start by getting to know that child as a person. Everything else is secondary.”

Many thanks to Rodney for taking the time to deliver such an inspirational talk to our staff!

Rodney Robinson