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Fall Conference to Feature Activist Teacher of the Year

  • Rodney Robinson, a veteran teacher of incarcerated youth in Virginia’s Richmond Public Schools and an advocate for restorative justice, will be among the featured speakers at the Council of the Great City Schools 63rd Annual Fall Conference Oct. 23-27 in Louisville, Ky.

    Robinson bounded onto the national stage when he was named 2019 Teacher of the Year by the Council of Chief State School Officers, which commended him for creating “a positive school culture by empowering his students – many of whom have experienced trauma – to become civically minded social advocates.”

    At the Virgie Binford Education Center in the Richmond Juvenile Detention Center, Robinson teaches social studies to students aged 12 to 19 with a focus on the history of prison and the Virginia juvenile justice system. The lessons, he has said, offer students a chance to step outside themselves and examine the factors that may have led to their incarceration.

    Robinson has said he wants to be an advocate for students who are being left behind by budget cuts and who endure punitive discipline over preventive and rehabilitative measures.        U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos listens as 2019 Teacher of the Year Rodney Robinson accepts his award.

    “I want school counselors, I want conflict mediators, I want restorative justice, I want people to come in and actually work with the kids and not just put a kid in handcuffs whenever there is a minor disagreement,” Robinson said in a local radio interview after being selected as Teacher of the Year.

    Robinson has participated as a National Fellow in the Yale National Initiative to strengthen teaching in public schools and contributed a three-week instructional unit on juvenile justice to the Race, Class, and Punishment curriculum, building on a seminar and a book by Yale law professor and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner James Forman Jr.

    The 19-year teaching veteran has been at Virgie Binford since 2015 and has worked with Richmond city leaders, colleges and university to recruit underrepresented male teachers into teaching.

    The conference will also feature two other keynote speakers: former presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett and presidential historian and author Jon Meacham. To register for the conference, click here.