Tahlequah Daily Press

Features

April 17, 2012

Robertson named top teacher, twice

TAHLEQUAH — Tahlequah Middle School Teacher of the Year Cindy Robertson believes making caring connections with her students is crucial in helping them learn.

Making that connection is a major aspect of her philosophy of teaching.

“You have to make some kind of a connection with each student to help them be the best they can be,” Robertson said. “With some, that’s not a problem, but with others, it’s really tough. When you connect, you can see their strengths and weaknesses and identify their learning styles.”

Her teaching team meets twice a week.

“If I can’t make a personal connection with a student, I can ask my team. Someone will suggest, ‘ask them about....,’” she said. “A connection allows them to come to you for help and to hear what you’re saying.”

Sometimes connecting is as easy as looking a student in the eye and saying “hello” when he or she walks in the room, she said. One child rolled his eyes at her every day for weeks.

“I tried several things, then I bought a roll of stickers,” she said. “I started putting stickers on his papers, and it took about nine weeks before he stopped rolling his eyes.”

A 23-year Tahlequah Public Schools veteran, Robertson is now winding down her is her fourth year teaching eighth-grade language arts. She’s also taught second, third and fourth grade at Cherokee Elementary, where she received the distinction of being Teacher of the Year in 2001-’02.

“The students make it for me,” Robertson said, “I love their age – still wanting to please, eager to learn, and their attention span is longer than in elementary school.”

She became a teacher because she believed she could make a difference.

“I’ve always loved children,” she said. “It really is rewarding to see kids go as far as they can go. You can really, really see it with an eighth-grade student, in their growth emotionally, socially and academically.”

A graduate of both Tahlequah High School and Northeastern State University, Robertson earned a Bachelor of Science in Education.

After a semester of college, she worked as a dispatcher at Tahlequah City Hospital in the emergency room.

It was the experience working there with a variety of people – including interns one summer – that spurred her to consider teaching.

“I got to know the wives of the interns I worked with, and some of them were teachers,” said Robertson. “They talked about how rewarding it was.”

Robertson is “surprised and shocked” to be selected by her peers for her second Teacher of the Year honor.

“It’s only my fourth year [at TMS], I didn’t realize people had noticed me,” she said. “I’d been at Cherokee several years when I got it.”

Robertson never wanted to be one of those grumpy or mean teachers most students remember.

“And I didn’t want to be stuck in a routine – one of those teachers who wouldn’t try,” said Robertson. “I present the information in different ways, hoping to make it interesting for the students. With technology, we have to stay current to keep their attention. I feel like I’m still sort of old-school, but I try to make it interesting and fun.”

Robertson said it helps to have a sense of humor teaching middle school students.

“Middle school students say stuff off the cuff,” she said. “I’m pretty laid-back, but if I have to address a behavior issue with a student, they know it’s a problem.”

Robertson encourages parents to stay involved as much as possible, because when parents are involved, the students are more likely to try harder to do well in school.

“We send out a weekly newsletter to help parents be informed about school,” she said. “When parents know as much about what’s going on as possible and what’s expected of their children as students, the better they’re able to help them  to be more successful and to stay in school.”

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