Virginia detention center educator Rodney Robinson named National Teacher of the Year

By Debbie Truong and Perry Stein for The Washington Post

During grocery shopping trips growing up, Rodney Robinson calculated the cost of the family’s items at the direction of his mother as they roamed the store. After high school football practices, Robinson sat in the back of class as his mother took courses for her GED.

“That really showed me the power of learning,” said Robinson, a social studies teacher in a juvenile detention center in Richmond.

Robinson, 40, started teaching to honor his mother, Sylvia, who he said struggled to receive an education as a child facing segregation and poverty in rural Virginia. On Wednesday, Robinson was named 2019 National Teacher of the Year — one of the most prestigious honors in the teaching profession.

At the Virgie Binford Education Center inside the Richmond Juvenile Detention Center, many of Robinson’s lessons deal with “overcoming long odds to succeed,” he wrote in his Teacher of the Year application.

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