Friends of retired teacher Vickie Robinson might say that she simply is unable to hear the word “no” when it comes to making life better for children in Northeast Florida.
Robinson is the best brand of tenacious. Petite with an unassuming smile, her whimsical cat-eye glasses belie a fierce passion for early learning that earned her United Way’s 2015 Sherwood H. Smith Children’s Champion Award in Service.
“Vickie is a natural born teacher, the kind that comes along every once in a while in your school career that makes her unforgettable,” said friend and fellow ReadingPal Heather Moore Geraghty.
“She’s the teacher who lives in your memory because she fills your days with laughter, love and a whole big helping of learning.”
As a ReadingPal, Robinson spends about an hour each week with three- and four-year-old students at Long Branch Elementary. Understanding the long-term impact of quality early learning, she helps them develop a love of books along with oral language and vocabulary skills in order to put them on track to academic success and a more stable future.
“Mrs. Vickie has enriched our children’s lives,” shared Laura Ingle, a teacher at Long Branch.
“My students have learned not only about letters and books, but about science, music, art, fitness and our community as Mrs. Vickie has brought them real world experiences.”
If her egg-dying, snow-making and cha-cha sliding are any indication of Robinson’s dedication to engaging students in their academics, you can imagine Robinson’s reaction when she arrived one day to see a padlock on the school playground, protecting students from unsafe equipment.
Recess may seem to be the easy way to tire out energetic young students, but as an educator, Robinson recognized that her “kiddos” were lacking an outlet for health and development. Indeed, the social interactions and kinesthetic skills associated with “play” have major implications for academic success in early learners.
“She didn’t want the children at Long Branch Elementary to be denied an important part of growing up and learning: play time,” added Moore Geraghty.
“No” was just not good enough for Robinson. No matter how many school administrators and city officials explained away the issue, Robinson could not ignore what her children were lacking.
After over a year of cutting through red tape (doubtlessly with decorative scissors), Robinson was able to secure funding for a school that had been waiting far too long to get the resources needed to help growing young minds experience an important world of learning outside of the classroom.
“She has given them the gift of imagination to be free to hang upside down from the monkey bars, pump their legs stronger and faster to swing high in the air and swoop down the slide.”
Sometimes, that’s just what youth in our community need: a push, not just to succeed in school, but to realize that they can fly–even if it’s on a swing set.
As a voice for those who are still learning words, Vickie Robinson personifies United Way’s desire to recruit the passion, resources and expertise to get things done. Her service in schools that can benefit most from a loving advocate earned her the 2015 Sherwood Smith Children’s Champion Award in Service, adding another name to the distinguished recipients.