Rodney Robinson, 40, became a teacher to honor his mother, who grew up poor in a time of segregation and wasn't able to finish high school. This month he was named 2019 Teacher of the Year, but he's not a typical teacher. He teaches at the Virgie Binford Education Center inside the Richmond Juvenile Detention Center in Virginia, serving prisoners between the ages of 10 and 18. He took the job because he wanted to understand how and why students from disadvantaged backgrounds are at higher risk for ending up in prison.
Now he helps incarcerated students fall in love with learning and plan for a life after they get out. "Jail is only a temporary setback," he insists. He uses a social studies curriculum that centers on juvenile justice and the prison system. "This year I hope to be the voice for my students and all students who feel unseen, unheard, unappreciated, and undervalued in America," he says