Henrico’s Top Teachers – Lisa Robinson

Lisa Robinson was watching some of her second-grade students at Highland Springs Elementary School play with each other one day several years ago, rough-housing a bit and pretending to kick one another. She asked what they were doing, and they responded, "We're playing police!"

More recently, when she invited several Henrico Police officers to visit her students and talk with them, she recalled her reaction when they entered the room.

"I cried," she said, "because these kids were ducking and dodging [yelling], 'The police! The police! He's gonna lock you up!"

Highland Springs Elementary serves the most at-risk population in Henrico County – students who in many cases live in poverty and in single-family homes – and that brings its own set of challenges and, at times, unfortunate realities.

But Robinson refuses to accept the status quo. She is a woman on a mission to change perceptions – those that her students once held of police officers, for example, and those that some may hold of those students and their community.

Robinson didn't expect to become a teacher, but after operating a child care business for at-risk children in Richmond for several years, she realized that she could reach more children in the classroom. She's taught in Henrico for 13 years now and focuses her efforts on the mind of each child.

"I heard once that we are all born with a brain, but a mind is developed," Robinson said.

In her attempt to develop young minds, she reaches out to her community in every way she knows how.

"In this community, there are a lot of single-parent households," Robinson said. "Everybody has the same goal – they want the best for their children. But when we are busy from the beginning [of the day] to the end, we just don't always find time to be as involved."

The difference between being engaged ("doing what you ask me to do," Robinson said) and being involved ("helping to create what is going to be done") is a significant one, she said.

To help encourage more involvement, Robinson and several other women founded the Team Change organization several years ago in order to help empower students and families in the community. The goal: Empower residents and children to strive for greatness.

The organization hosts regular visits from police officers, firefighters and other community groups. Its volunteers help mentor students not only with academics but with life issues, too. The program will begin holding classes regularly at the Coventry apartment complex in the summer and expects to expand into Fair Oaks Elementary School before long.

The model is working already, as evidenced in part, Robinson said, by a third-grader who was a student of hers. The child had significant behavioral issues two years ago but interactions with positive role models – including one he calls "my police officer" – have him acting as a leader in his class this year.

"She not only dedicates herself to the students in her classroom, she dedicates herself to the community around them as well," one nominator wrote of Robinson. "She knows that it takes a village to fully educate a child. She not only uses the resources she already has, she goes out and finds the resources that are required to reach beyond what her classroom needs."

Wrote another: "I have witnessed her encourage students to believe in their ability to learn and have observed how quickly their frown was replaced with a smile simply because of her encouragement."

Robinson lives in the Highland Springs community herself – a choice she made as a way to fully immerse herself in it.

"It's not about me," she said of her efforts. "It's about what our community will be like if we join hands and create more of this."
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May 2017
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The 2016 film “Mother’s Day” (rated PG-13) will play at 7 p.m. May 5 and at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. May 6 at the Henrico Theatre, 305 E. Nine Mile Rd. Tickets are $1 and can be purchased at the door. For details, call 328-4491. Full text

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