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Germantown’s Robinson named Teacher of the Year finalist

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Houston High School’s Michael Robinson has been named a Tennessee Teacher of the Year finalist by the Tennessee Department of Education.

He is one of nine finalists for the 2018-19 Tennessee Teacher of the Year award. The Grand winners will be selected later this fall. The final winner will represent Tennessee in the National Teacher of the Year competition and serve as an ambassador for education in the state throughout the year.

In 2006, Robinson was named Teacher of the Year by legacy Shelby County Schools. He has done a lot of things between now and then.

Besides his 23 years serving as a teacher, mentor and faculty advisory member to the schools he’s worked at, he also lends his expertise to social studies teachers on an international scale.

A current board member and webmaster for the Tennessee Council for the Social Studies, he regularly contributes lessons and ideas via webinars, presentations, and maintains a lively website.

“In preparing for that [a teacher workshop for AP Human geography teachers], I put some of my activities on my website to share with the other teachers there. I have continued to add to my website, and currently I have 128 activities for each unit of the AP course and 215 videos with guiding questions,” shared Robinson.

The website has become hugely popular and Robinson now regularly receives emails from teachers all over the world commenting and asking questions about the activities.

An impressive roster of 33 presentations and publications litters his resume from topics like Trampolines, Toilets, and Tents: Teaching Development in a Social Studies Classroom and From Big Macs to Goats: Using a Variety of Geography Resources in the Classroom.

More impressive, however, is his list of accolades, awards, and travel awards–that’s right–some organizations pay him to tour exotic locales so that he can bring that knowledge back to the classroom.

Robinson and his wife also enjoy serving as routine chaperones for student trips abroad to places like Mexico, Costa Rica, Peru, Puerto Rico, Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, UK and Ireland.

Years ago as Tennessee moved to the TEAM evaluation model, Robinson says he reformed his focus as a teacher to inquiry-based and student centered learning.

As he expanded his lessons using this methodology, he said, “The success of those first few activities lead to more activities, which eventually lead to a complete shift in my approach to classes. I rarely lecture; I focus on student participation and making students think about the learning.”

This pedagogical change lead to higher success rates in the AP scores of his students who last year scored an average 4.14/5 while the national average was 2.61/5.

More of a testament to the success is the growth of 110 students enrolled in AP Human Geography from his first year in 2006 with only 10 students.

At Houston High School, Robinson also began a speaker series called, Our World Lecture Series: Breaking Down Walls, in which guest speakers visit the school outside of class time to expose Houston students to cultures, religions, jobs, etc. that they may know very little about.

“It really is designed to ‘break down’ the barriers, stereotypes and misinformation students may have on a wide range of topics,” explained Robinson.

From year to year, the popularity of the after school sessions has also grown in interest and student attendance as Robinson has opened it to the entire student body.

“Teaching is some of the hardest, most rewarding work there is, and because of our educators and their commitment to an excellent education for all, more Tennessee students are prepared for their next steps in school and in life,” Education Commissioner Candice McQueen said. “It is a great honor to recognize these educators from across our state for the ways each of them are proving what is possible in our classrooms. Because of teachers like these nine finalists, Tennessee will continue to be a national leader in student gains and outcomes.”

The final winner will represent Tennessee in the National Teacher of the Year competition and serve as an ambassador for education in the state throughout the year.

To qualify, candidates must have been teaching full-time for at least three years, have a track record of exceptional gains in student learning and be effective school and community leaders.

The finalists will have the opportunity to serve on Commissioner McQueen’s Teacher Advisory Council for duration of the 2018-19 school year. This council acts as a working group of expert teachers to provide feedback and inform the work of the department throughout the school year.

Additionally, to provide continuity and leadership, the three Grand Division winners will continue their term during the 2019-20 school year.