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Teacher Spotlight – Adara Robbins

I’m Courtney, and I’m excited to introduce you to one of the teachers I work with, Adara Robbins. Adara shows real strengths in student behavior and teamwork, especially the way that she creates a classroom community where students eagerly praise and encourage one another. Read below to learn more about the great things going on in Adara’s classroom.

What organization do you work for?

I work at YES Prep Southwest, home of the Maverick Nation!

What grade-level and subject do you teach?

8th grade ELA

Where did you attend college and what was your major? List all that apply.

I went to Rice University, right here in Houston. I majored in Sociology and minored in Poverty, Justice, & Human Capabilities. Huge shoutout to the PJHC program at Rice for pointing me in the direction of social justice, education, and teaching.

What attracted you to teaching?

I was fortunate to have amazing teachers for English II and AP Language. They fundamentally altered the trajectory of my life, giving me the tools I needed to better understand the crazy and beautiful world around me. I knew I wanted to do this for someone else. I’m so grateful I teach at YES Prep, where I have some awesome fellow teachers and mentors (and a rockstar IC) to help me become the teacher I hope to someday be.

What is the best part of teaching? What is the most difficult part of teaching?

The best part of teaching is getting to watch – and help! – kids grow up, right in front of your eyes. The moment when a student realizes they are not alone in this world, when they realize countless authors have experienced the same feelings they have, and that through reading/writing students can more deeply connect with the world around them…it’s indescribable. I especially love teaching middle school because there is SO much personal growth and self-awareness that happens in this time. It’s an honor to shepherd students through the crazy middle school years.

The most difficult part of teaching is watching students make poor decisions and knowing it may very well affect the rest of their lives. There is no substitute for experience, and I know it’s the only way my students will learn, despite how much their teachers and classmates in the Maverick Nation try to steer them in a more positive direction. But it’s hard to see students make certain choices when I know that statistically, these choices will likely result in a more difficult future. It’s one of those things where you just say what you can say, and love kids no matter what, and hope they’ll do what deep down they know is right.

Describe a successful teaching strategy that you use in the classroom. How does this impact your students’ achievement?

One of my goals for this year is to build an authentic love and value of reading in my students. I want them to know they’re not just in my class for STAAR or to go on to ninth grade, but to begin the lifelong journey of exploring the literary world. For this reason I’m a huge fan of authentic reading and annotation. For example, instead of introducing a concept (like hyperbole) and just having students find examples of hyperbole in random texts or drilling them on multiple choice questions, I have my students sit in a circle and work in teams to find authentic examples in our current anchor text. I push my students to always include inferences about author’s purpose and broader themes when annotating their examples. This sort of higher-level thinking is crucial to get to, every single class, so students can begin the process of analyzing literature that will help them be college-ready. At the end, students get to come up and share out their findings with the class, encouraging each other to be brave and show zest by snapping for affirmation. I think this really helps with creating a warm/supportive environment and showing it’s “cool” to try hard and care about school – something that can be challenging among the middle school set. I especially love when students find in-text examples I didn’t even think of! This part – the joy and beauty of reading between the lines and discovering things that are slightly hidden – it’s the part of English I love so much. And I want my students to love it, too.

When you are not working on closing the achievement gap, what do you enjoy doing?

I love anything outdoors – biking, hiking, running, playing sports of any kind (especially soccer). I also love writing, having great life chats with close friends, and reading (admittedly really nerdy) social science books. But let’s be real here. After the end of a long day I can usually be found in bed watching The Office.

What three words would you use to describe the experience of participating in Teaching Excellence?

Grit. Passion. Gratitude.


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