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Southeast Missouri State University alumnus Craig Robinson loves his job. Why? Because he knows that what he offers is endless possibility.
Robinson is a teacher. His official duty is to teach science to inner-city third graders, but unofficially he also teaches that hard work and perseverance are worth the effort. He is passionate about instilling his students with the knowledge that they have the ability to succeed.
The community of Frayser, Tennessee, where Robinson teaches, an urban area just north of Memphis, is a neighborhood that has struggled with high rates of crime, unemployment, and economic depression, he said. Two years ago, however, after graduating from Southeast with a Bachelor of Science in Education, middle school education, Robinson’s move to Memphis put him exactly where he wanted to be.
Robinson, who grew up in the small town of Hayti, Missouri, chose to teach in an urban school.
“I felt that I could make the most impact in an urban setting,” he said.
Robinson graduated from Southeast in 2014 and is a part of the Teach for America program. He is now in his third year teaching at Georgian Hills Achievement Elementary School. In total, he has 126 students in second, third and fourth grades. He starts off every class period with a refresher from the day before, and engages his students with a video or story that reinforces the day’s lesson. They also spend time talking about what kind of jobs the children could potentially find if they were to become knowledgeable in that particular topic.
“I want my students to not only enhance their science content skills, but more importantly, to understand the ways in which this knowledge empowers them to function as competent members of a community– whether that community is Frayser, Memphis or the world.”
Georgian Hills was once one of the lowest ranked of all Tennessee schools. The hard work and dedication of the teachers has changed that, and Robinson is proud of the school’s success.
“In 2014 our test scores were so good that we left the bottom five percent and we don’t plan on returning,” Robinson said, adding, “these students will have the same chances in life as any other students.”
Robinson originally attended Southeast on a football scholarship, but then switched to track and field—and began to throw. He quickly excelled at shot-put, winning three Ohio Valley Conference championships. He was ranked in the top 20 shot-put competitors in the nation his junior year, and still sings the praises of track and field coach Eric Crumpecker.
Athleticism aside, Robinson knew when he came to Southeast that he wanted to be a teacher. In addition to athletic competition, he used his years as a student to become more involved in community service organizations like Boys and Girls Club and Big Brothers Big Sisters, which help at-risk kids.
“I do not regret any of the decisions I made while at Southeast, and, if I had to do it all over again, I would do it the exact same way. I am a proud graduate of Southeast. It was the perfect choice for me,” he said. “My training through the educational program at Southeast equipped me with the knowledge and skills I needed to get my career started and put me on the path toward becoming the teacher I am today.”
Robinson is also an alumnus of the Xi Gamma chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, and has plans to create a mentoring program in Cape Girardeau through his fraternity.
For now, Robinson is using his education and passion in the belief that his students can improve their lives through knowledge.
“I tell them that people can take things away from you but no one can ever take away what you learn,” he explained. “My vision is to instill in my students the belief that with hard work and perseverance, they can achieve anything. Hard work always pays off.”