Marguerite Christian Elementary’s Teacher of the Year had dreams of being a social worker and started her career at Richmond Memorial Hospital.
Sarah Robenson did short-term rehabilitation and was responsible for assisting patients with care once they returned home, or she placed them in a nursing home if they weren’t able to go home.
At some point, Robenson’s vision of being a registered nurse no longer aligned with the hospital’s, so she made the switch to education. Her 19 years of experience helped her with being a teacher, and she said she has more of an understanding because of her foundation in social work.
“I can communicate better with parents … I can communicate better with the students … [and] I’m familiar with resources on the outside because of my social work background,” she said. “I love teaching better, but I never let go of my background with social work, so I think they go hand-in-hand.”
Robenson taught in Richmond Public Schools for 13 years and has been at Marguerite Christian for five. She has taught second and third grade, but prefers kindergarteners.
“You’re the first to get students passionate about learning. You’re the foundation that other educators can build upon, and you’re the first to build healthy relationships with parents and guardians,” she said.
With the memory of her son being the type to not sit still in the class, along with her time teaching in Sunday school, Robenson said she realized the traditional way of paper and pencil was not enough.
“Not all students learn the same way, but all students can achieve success,” she said. “Some students learn best by listening, some by visual, some by interacting with their peers, some by sharing, some by their craftiness.”
This is Robenson’s second time being awarded Teacher of the Year. She was also Radio One Richmond’s Teacher of the Week in 2012. (Both occurred when she taught at Greene Elementary).
Robenson plans to devote herself to teaching for the next 11 years. Her dream is to open her own private daycare for boys who don’t qualify for Head Start and whose birthdays disqualify them from starting in September so she can provide them with the necessary tools to be high achievers in kindergarten.
She credited her husband and best friend for motivating and inspiring her teaching career.
“My husband has always been my support system … [and] has encouraged me to be a lifelong learner and build a strong relationship with my students and parents,” Robenson said. “[And] my girlfriend, Ruby [Purifoy], has always been my mentor, and I’m the educator I am today because she’s always encouraging me to be the best teacher I can for all the students I have the opportunity to educate.”