Henrico’s Top Teachers – Robin Ricketts

Rare is the teacher with 30 years of experience who actively embraces the newest forms of technology. Rarer still is the teacher with such credentials who thrives on such advances.
Robin Ricketts, then, is something of a teaching unicorn. As the JK-12 technology coordinator at the Steward School for the past five years, she has overseen the integration of technology into the course loads of every Steward student. She also teaches technology from junior kindergarten through third grade.
“Technology is just something that has always fascinated me,” she said. “If you look around at all the different tools and services we use in today’s world, so many of them have technology running them in some way.”
Teaching, Ricketts said, just came naturally to her from the time she was a child serving as the”Pied Piper” of her neighborhood, organizing games and activities for her friends. She has taught at Steward for 30 years – 25 in second grade and five in her new role.
By helping teachers incorporate various foundations of technology into their lesson plans at Steward, Ricketts has helped provide students with a leg up on future job opportunities.
“And the teachers have done such an awesome job at that,” she joked, “that in a sense I have sort of worked my way out of a job.”
Teaching the foundation of coding to students is not about imparting technology knowledge to youngsters, Ricketts said – rather it’s about helping them understand a new language that they can use to communicate.
“If you start young, and you familiarize children with a language – a spoken or computer language – they learn the vocabulary of that language, they learn the syntax, how it is supposed to go together so that it makes sense so that another person can understand it or a computer can understand it.
“If you start that young, then it’s really not that difficult.”
Ricketts also encourages her students to solve problems themselves – even if it means making mistakes.
Or, perhaps, especially if it means making mistakes.
“Sometimes they will say, ‘Mrs. Ricketts, I can’t make this work.’ I’m not going to give them an answer – I’m going to force them to take a risk. Because one day, they’re not going to have a manual from their boss.”
Ricketts helped create the “Hackathon,” a day-long event during which students in grades 3-12 were invited to come to school on a Saturday morning and use laptops to code in any computer language they chose. More than 40 students designed games and other programs using coding programs such as Scratch Jr., Scratch 2.0 and Raspberry Pie. They shared their creations with classmates and took home door prizes.
“It was just such a great day to celebrate writing computer code,” said Ricketts, explaining that one of her goals is to elevate coding to a status similar to that of a varsity athlete or drama performer.
Ricketts credits Rebecca and Chris Dovi, founders of CodeVA (a nonprofit computer science and programming organization) with helping to lead efforts locally and statewide to push coding and programming education to the forefront.
“We don’t know where our kids are going to end up, but there’s a good chance that at some point they’re going to end up in a job that involves coding,” Ricketts said.
Until coding becomes a part of every student’s curriculum in every school, she said, jobs that could be filled by Americans will continue to be outsourced in greater numbers.
“We don’t expect all of our kids to grow up and become meteorologists, but you can be sure they all learn about weather. Coding is part of the new literacy.”
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June 2017

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Trinity Lutheran Church, 2315 N. Parham Rd., will present “Evensong for Trinity,” performed by the Trinity Choirs and organist Bruce Stevens, at 4 p.m. This service will feature hymns, anthems and psalms extolling the majesty of God’s work in the world. A reception will follow. Admission is free. For details, call 270-4626 or visit http://www.trinityrichmond.net. Full text

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Henrico's Top Teachers

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