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NEA Member Named 2019 National Teacher of the Year

Richmond, VA educator Rodney Robinson receives top honor

WASHINGTON - April 24, 2019 -

Rodney Robinson, who spends his days working with at-risk youth as a social studies teacher in a juvenile detention center in Richmond, today was named the 2019 National Teacher of the Year and will be honored in a White House ceremony later this spring.

He describes his students as "the most vulnerable kids in society" and pledges to "fight to my last heartbeat for them." He began teaching at Virgie Binford Education Center to better understand the school-to-prison pipeline, he says.

Robinson’s efforts to combat inequity and promote diversity in the profession is embodied in his work as a union activist and proud member of the Richmond Education Association, the Virginia Education Association, and the National Education Association.

"On behalf of NEA’s more than three million members, we are thrilled that Rodney Robinson is the 2019 National Teacher of the Year," said NEA President Lily Eskelsen GarcÍa. "That the Council of Chief State School Officers recognized Mr. Robinson for his work inside the Richmond Juvenile Justice Center is worth noting because, through his deeds and actions, he is standing up for those ‘students who feel unseen, unheard, unappreciated, and undervalued in America.’ 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, both of which are essential elements to the foundation of quality public education in America. Every student in every public school in this country deserves a teacher like Mr. Robinson no matter their ZIP code or their circumstances."

Robinson is known for both his unique ability to connect with his students and for his commitment to the profession, which he demonstrated as a featured speaker at VEA’s Fund Our Future Rally at the state Capitol in January, and in his ongoing advocacy for Richmond’s students, schools, and educators.

"Rodney is amazing, and I can think of no one better suited to represent our nation’s teachers," said Jim Livingston, VEA president. "The love he shows for his students every day is an inspiration not only to them, but to their families, his colleagues, and the entire community. He works incredibly hard helping some of our young people who need it the most. I know he’s changed countless lives."

Robinson, who’s been with Richmond Public Schools for 19 years, has taught at the Virgie Binford Education Center since 2015. He’s also taught in city middle and high schools. Robinson has a bachelor’s degree in history from Virginia State University and a master’s in educational administration and supervision from Virginia Commonwealth University.

CONTACT: Celeste Busser