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Teacher of the Year Rodney Robinson to Lead RPS Diversity Effort

Rodney Robinson
Rodney Robinson was named National Teacher of the Year in 2019. (Photo: Yasmine Jumaa/VPM News)

Richmond Public Schools has appointed Rodney Robinson -- 2019’s national teacher of the year -- as senior advisor for the district’s new initiative to recruit and support male teachers of color.

The male teachers of color initiative is part of the district’s larger anti-racism policy agenda that was drafted in June. Robinson taught at several schools in Richmond for 19 years -- most recently at Virgie Binford Educational Center inside the Richmond Juvenile Detention Center.

“If we get more teachers of color in the classroom, then we just make education as a field stronger,” Robinson said. “I always say, everybody benefits from diversity.” 

Robinson says part of the reason there are less male teachers of color is because of their experiences as students: “No one wants to come to the scene of their trauma as a career field.” This is why he says raising the number of male teachers of color begins with improving conditions for male students of color.

“I always try to say that I’m their big brother. I’m that guy that’s gonna look out for you. I’m that guy that’s gonna make sure you’re on the right path and that you can be whatever you want to be,” he said.

 A study by John Hopkins University has found that Black students are more likely to graduate high school and go to college if they are taught by at least one Black teacher in their youth.

According to the Virginia Department of Education, Black students make up more than 60% of the student body at Richmond schools and Latino students make up about 20%. Robinson says the goal is for teachers of color in the district to match these numbers.

“It’s really important that students get those teachers who look like them, who value their culture, who value their community and inspire them to be what they want to be,” Robinson said.

In a press statement, RPS Superintendent Jason Kamras said the district is “thrilled” to have Robinson back and in the position of senior advisor.

“Rodney is a fierce fighter for equity, a proponent of abolitionist teaching, and an all-around force to be reckoned with. We not only need his voice at the table, we need him leading the very important work of helping RPS become an anti-racist school division,” Kamras said