Teacher Spotlight: Talia Robinson at Howard University Middle School in Washington, D.C.

One of Talia Robinson’s proudest moments as an educator came when a group of her former students visited her with a message of thanks.

Robinson had served as a mentor for the students during their time as sixth- through eighth-graders at Howard University Middle School of Mathematics and Science in Washington, D.C.

“We often told them, ‘You’re going to come back and thank us one day once you finish the program,” said Robinson, an educational technology coach at HUMS. “And sure enough, after they graduated and went on to ninth grade, they came back and were like, ‘Thank you, Ms. Robinson. You were right.’”

Hearing those simple and profound words reminded Robinson why she became an educator. It reinforced her strong belief that a teacher’s impact on their students can’t be truly seen until after they leave their classroom. 

“You listened!” Robinson told her former students that day. “You truly listened.” 

In this instance, her students told her that being a high schooler wasn’t as overwhelming or difficult because of the preparation and guidance they received in middle school—just like Robinson told them would be the case. Hearing that type of affirmation from students is where Robinson finds the most satisfaction as an educator.

As much as Robinson enjoys the day-to-day interactions, she especially looks forward to seeing tangible proof that the dedicated time she spends connecting with students leads to positive outcomes in their lives.

“I love to visit with my former students and see their growth and see how they have evolved,” Robinson said. “That’s my joy.”

Robinson’s joyful approach to education is among many reasons she is the latest to receive Summit Learning’s “Teacher Spotlight” honor. The spotlight is a monthly celebration for educators who go above and beyond to provide meaningful learning experiences for their students.

‘I love to share and show others what I’ve learned’

When Robinson reflects on her two decades as an educator, she gives a lot of credit for her success to one of her own teachers. As a student in Michigan, Robinson developed a love of learning in large part because of the contagious passion of her fifth-grade teacher.

“She celebrated everything,” Robinson said. “If she was having a hard day, we didn’t know. If we got our multiplication problems correct, it was a party. She just loved us. We knew that she cared and she would always fight for us.”

Around that same time in her childhood, a nine-year-old Robinson received some prophetic career advice from her aunt after she was observed playing and interacting with her cousins.

“She said, ‘You’re very patient. You would make a good teacher someday,’” Robinson said. 

Robinson realized education was where she could make the biggest impact and has enjoyed the challenge of finding different ways to bring out the best in each individual student. 

“I just truly enjoy children learning,” Robinson said. “I love learning and I love to share and show others what I’ve learned. I love to see the light bulb go off in children when they’ve learned something new or they’ve grasped a concept.”

Robinson also loves seeing the “light bulb” go off for her fellow educators as they all work together to reimagine education. The key, Robinson said, is to stay optimistic amid the various challenges and be sure to enjoy the many victories along the way.

“We have to have grace for ourselves and celebrate those wins, big and small,” Robinson said. “We don’t give ourselves enough grace and we should. I just want everybody to smile a little more. We got this.”

Do you know a teacher who is going above and beyond to support their students? If so, please nominate them to receive the Summit Learning Teacher Spotlight through this form.

About the author

Summit Learning
Summit Learning is a research–based approach to education designed to drive student engagement, meaningful learning, and strong student–teacher relationships that prepare students for life after graduation. Created by teachers with experience in diverse classrooms, Summit Learning is grounded in decades of research about how children learn. With Summit Learning, students gain mastery of core subjects like math, history, English, and science, while also carefully developing the skills and habits of lifelong learners. Summit Learning is independently led and operated by the nonprofit, Gradient Learning.