Meet Mr. Jermaine Robinson / 7th grade Social Studies Teacher / KIPP DC Northeast Academy
Jermaine’s journey to teaching and KIPP DC is fascinating. While earning his masters in anthropology from Louisiana State, Jermaine traveled to New Orleans to complete an art project with students, many of whom had survived Hurricane Katrina. Through art, students were able to display some of the trauma that the hurricane had brought. It was also during this experience that Jermaine saw the achievement gap head on. Having attended a high school in Miami described as a “drop out factory” it was during his post-secondary education that he was able to see educational inequity head on. With a feeling of wanting to give back through public education, he says, “That was the bug that got me invested in education and what my role could be. I felt like it was a civic responsibility.”
Jermaine entered the teaching profession through a residency program and began teaching in the D.C. area. He went on to teach literacy, social studies, and special education and earned two additional masters degrees, one in education and the other in special education. Like many, Jermaine first learned about KIPP DC from a friend, and after a conversation with then school leader John Barnhardt, he was inspired to join the team at Northeast Academy.
When asked what stands out to him about Northeast Academy, he points to the cohesiveness of the team. He shares a quote that reflects the power of strong staff relationships between colleagues from Roland Barth’s Improving Relationships within the Schoolhouse: “The nature of relationships among the adults within a school has a greater influence on the character and quality of that school and on student accomplishment than anything else.” At Northeast Academy, he says, “We’re able to support each other and cultivate to keep the energy and enthusiasm high so that you don’t fall out of love with the work that you do.”
Jermaine also receives meaningful support from his administration. When confronted with a question or problem, he knows that there’s always someone to point to a book, person, or resource that will provide a solution. Recently, Jermaine was looking for a visual or documentary aide to go alongside a unit on Abolitionism and Harriet Tubman. Knowing that the show Underground would be a great opportunity to engross students in the era, he mentioned this to his school leader, Caitlin Maxwell. Before he knew it, she had pulled up Amazon and rented the episode. Jermaine reflected, “It really brought the unit home for the 7th graders. It was amazing to have an idea that crossed your head and then have your principal support you with what you needed.”
For Jermaine, one of the most rewarding parts of teaching is seeing students taking their knowledge beyond the lesson. Xavier, a student in his 7th grade class last year, stands out as one that always pushed thinking and is always made real world connections. Jermaine remembers a recent community event in which he had a surprise. He was attending A Seat at the Table, a series of table discussions around race, ancestry, and economic equity hosted through the National Museum of African American History and Culture. He shares, “We were at the end of our discussion and I shared out at my table. A couple tables later there was a student sharing. It was Xavier! I had held him accountable for being who he was and taking advantage of opportunities, and that is exactly what he was doing. It was so rewarding to see him doing the same thing as a 14 year old that I was doing as a 30 year old.”
In addition to the passion he brings to the classroom, Jermaine also spreads his talent as an artist, historian, community member, reader, and friend. Achieving work-life balance is part of what makes him an effective teacher. “You have to stay true to yourself. I like to read, workout, I’m an artist. You have to make sure that you show up your best self to educate children”.