Henrico’s Top Teachers – Louise Robertson

Steward School, English
By now, Louise Robertson is used to the puzzled looks and quizzical responses some people give her upon learning her profession.

"I've had people say, 'You teach middle school? God bless you. How do you do it?'" she said with a laugh.

But for Robertson, now in her 21st year at the Steward School and fourth year as academic dean for the middle school, it's a worthwhile challenge. As a seventh-grade English teacher, she strives to impart traditional standards and philosophies to students who have grown up in a technology-frenzied world. And though technology is a big part of her classroom, she finds that students sometimes gravitate toward old-fashioned favorites.

"The kids can do their reading on an e-reader or hard copy," she said. "But I find that most of the time, they'll sit down with a book."

During an era in which texting, tweeting and e-mailing seemingly have made proper sentence structure and spelling a thing of the past, Robertson makes sure that her students know they have higher expectations in class.

"We're strong on teaching grammar, because it makes for better writers or thinkers," she said. "It's a tool they can take with them. [Students' performances] just depend on how you structure an assignment, what you accept and don't accept. I try to teach them to be good writers."

Robertson has made a tremendous impact on the school during her time as an educator. She was named the recipient of the Paul R. Cramer “Best Faculty Award” last year, a tribute to her dedication in her various roles.

"In the classroom, this teacher challenges and cares, discovers and shapes, inspires and requires," said Ken Seward, headmaster of The Steward School. "While honoring Steward's past, this individual looks to the future and initiates and supports changes to ensure that the School continues to meet its mission in a changing world."

Though she embraces advancements in education, Robertson's underlying philosophies as a teacher have an old-school feel.

"My standards come from the '60s and '70s, but those core values shouldn't change," she said. "I don’t pride myself on being their friend. I pride myself on making sure they know I'm fair. It's important that students see someone they can respect. You can get their attention that way."

Recently, she recalled a former student who had expressed a particular fondness for a specific book when he was in her class. When she got an illustrated copy of it this past Christmas, she contacted him to let him know.

"He came down to my office within an hour, and we sat and talked about it," she said. "I hadn't had him in class in five or six years."

Helping students understand how their English skills can open doors for them or help them find their passions in life make each day a rewarding one for Robertson.

"What you look for, particularly with seventh-graders, is that teachable moment," she said. "You try to make that real world connection with them. It's the age that I love."
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Henrico County Public Schools is seeking input from interested members of the public on the Fiscal Year 2017-18 HCPS budget. A stakeholder meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. at Fairfield Library. The school division will develop a budget proposal using feedback from this and other meetings. The proposal will be made public in January. For details, visit http://www.henricoschools.us and look under “Hot Topics.” Full text

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