2019 National Teacher of the Year Rodney Robinson applauds his students as he was celebrated at the Virgie Binford Education Center on Thursday, April 25, 2019. Robinson teaches history at the school which is inside the Richmond Juvenile Detention Center.

Bucking tradition, President Donald Trump will not attend a White House ceremony Monday honoring Richmond’s Rodney Robinson, who was named National Teacher of the Year last week.

Nancy Rodriguez, the spokeswoman for the Council of Chief State School Officers, which oversees National Teacher of the Year, said Friday that U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos will present the award to Robinson rather than Trump.

Rodriguez said there have been several years in the past — Politico reported nine other instances — in which someone other than the president honored the National Teacher of the Year. The honor started in 1952.

“Each year, CCSSO works with the White House to coordinate a recognition event,” said Paul Ferrari, the senior program director with the National Teacher of the Year program. “It is up to each administration to decide how to recognize the teachers, and it has varied throughout the 67-year history of the program in location and who has delivered the recognition to the National Teacher.”

Trump attended last year’s ceremony when Mandy Manning, who teaches English to refugees and immigrants in Washington, won the award.

Robinson is the first teacher from Richmond and the third Virginia teacher ever to be named the country’s best. He did not return a text message Saturday.

The 40-year-old said before he was named National Teacher of the Year that he would go to the White House ceremony, something many sports teams, including the University of Virginia men’s basketball team, have decided not to do since Trump took office in 2017.

“It’s to honor the people who worked for people with little respect for them,” said Robinson, referring to slaves who built the White House. “It’s not about Trump.”

In winning the award, Robinson, a teacher in Richmond’s juvenile detention center, will travel the country spreading his message that students of color need more teachers of color and impoverished students need more resources.

“Of all Americans, it may be the president who most needs to hear Rodney’s message of equity, inclusion and justice,” Superintendent Jason Kamras said. “As Rodney has so powerfully demonstrated with his work, our greatness as a country comes from the millions of people of all backgrounds who strive every day to right the wrongs of the past so we can become a more perfect union.”

A White House spokesperson could not immediately say what the president would be doing instead of attending the ceremony.

Kamras was named National Teacher of the Year in 2005 and attended the White House ceremony with President George W. Bush.

This year’s ceremony is scheduled for Monday afternoon. It is closed to the press.


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Twitter: @jmattingly306

Education Reporter

Justin Mattingly covers K-12 schools and higher education. A northern New York native and a Syracuse University alumnus, he's worked at the RTD since 2017. You can follow him on Twitter at @jmattingly306.

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