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2019's Teacher Of The Year Teaches Incarcerated Youth At Detention Center

"Every child deserves the proper amount of love to get what he or she needs,” said Virginia educator Rodney Robinson as he recalled his mother's words.

Virginia educator Rodney Robinson, who was named the nation’s 2019 Teacher of the Year, works with students at a juvenile detention center in Richmond. 

Robinson teaches social studies to students at Virgie Binford Education Center, a Richmond public school housed inside the Richmond Juvenile Justice Center. The Council of Chief State School Officers announced Robinson’s achievements on Wednesday.

The committee recognized Robinson for creating a “positive school culture by empowering his students,” many of whom have experienced trauma, the organization said. 

“Robinson, who has taught for 19 years, uses a whole child approach to education to help his students gain the academic and social-emotional skills they need to move beyond their past mistakes and pursue their dreams for a better future,” the statement continued. 

“I give my kids empathy, not sympathy, and that’s the key,” Robinson told The Associated Press. “It’s all about empathizing — understanding their situation, but teaching them how to overcome.”

Robinson, 40, said he was inspired by his mom to pursue a teaching career during a Wednesday interview on “CBS This Morning,” adding that she instilled in him that “every child deserves the proper amount of love to get what he or she needs.” 

“That was my first lesson in equity,” he added. 

Prior to teaching at Virgie Binford, Robinson taught social studies at Armstrong High School, a Richmond school that’s had a troubled history with violence.

Two of Robinson’s formers students at Armstrong, who described the 2019 Teacher of the Year as a “gem in the nation,” told CBS News that they have become teachers themselves. 

Robinson took on a teaching role at Virgie Binford in 2015 after becoming motivated to learn more about the school-to-prison pipeline, he told the AP. 

Some examples of his early influence at the detention center school included his efforts to fill the walls of the center with college banners, motivational quotes and images of prominent figures like, former President Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey, the publication added. 

As the National Teacher of the Year, Robinson will spend a year traveling both nationally and internationally to advocate on behalf of teachers, and for the recruitment of more men of color in the education field, the council said in its announcement.

“As an educator, working with students who face a multitude of challenges, teaching as a member of a school division team and a state-operated program, his commitment to educational excellence and supporting the social-emotional learning of his students has made a tremendous difference in the lives of Virginia students,” said Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction James Lane in a statement. 

Former National Teacher of the Year, Jahana Hayes, made history earlier this year when she was sworn in as the first black congresswoman from Connecticut

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