DANIELS, W.Va. — Educators around the state that work in juvenile centers got the chance to hear from the 2019 National Teacher of the Year, a teacher at a center in Virginia.

Rodney Robinson, the Richmond, Virginia native, teaches at the Virgie Binford Education Center, a school inside the Richmond Juvenile Detention Center. He provided the keynote address at the West Virginia Department of Education Juvenile Conference at the Glade Springs Conference Center on Wednesday morning in Daniels.

State Department of Education

State Superintendent of Schools Dr. Steve Paine with Rodney Robinson.

Robinson appeared on Wednesday’s MetroNews ‘Talkline’ to share his story.

“It’s a struggle to get them there,” Robinson said of impacting students in bad spots. “I teach them their rights, teach them how to grow and show them that they have an impact and a voice no matter what they have been accused of doing.”

A release from the state Department of Education said Robinson has dedicated his career to forming critical relationships with students in residential programs and learning how to counsel other children on avoiding the school-to-prison pipeline. Robinson was named National Teacher of the Year in April.

Robinson noted the message of love by Hall of Fame Teacher Ben Talley was a way of success in the classroom.

“Just keep loving them until they start to buy-in to your love. You create that culture of love and eventually all of my students buy-in,” Robinson said.

Once the students buy-in, Robinson said its important to find the connections with learning.

“You have to have stories that they can relate to about people who look like them, people who have been in similar situations like them and people who have overcome,” he said. “If they can relate to a story, then all the other learning takes place automatically.”

Robinson also discussed a Marshall Plan he is proposing for education that includes a multi-billion education investment. He said there needs to be funding for teacher pay, infrastructure citing the school’s conditions and funding for mental health.

“For years this country has sold short our teachers and our students. It’s time for them to live up to that promise,” Robinson said.

The West Virginia Department of Education provides educational services to more than 2,500 juveniles annually in 22 state-operated facilities.