Ms. Kristin A. Robair employs a student-centered conceptual learning approach using real-life scenarios and problem-solving opportunities that empower her students to be “community of learners” with academic and civic responsibility. She fosters a trusting, encouraging, respectful work and learning environment with the ability to reach all students, from gifted to special needs, encouraging them to achieve more than they thought possible. Kristin’s sweet and vibrant spirit always showed out even when I first met her years ago in college at Southeastern through mutual friends. I had the pleasure to learn more about her inspiring journey as a mother, teacher, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. In all Kristin’s avenues, perseverance and resilience is the key in everything she touches.
What inspired you to become a teacher and educator?
KR: “Believe it or not, in this field, some people are inspired and some people are chosen. I am one of those people that was destined, or chosen for this field. Growing up, I had no clue what I wanted to be as an adult. However, I would always play school with my teddy bears, younger cousins, and neighborhood friends. I always had a yearning to learn and know things, in many different subjects. I’m very inquisitive and I LOVED reading. For example, I remember my mom told me that she had a group of science encyclopedias that focused on various things. At 4 years old, she remembers me asking her about where babies come from? I’m not sure what answer she gave me, but I was able to spit out the entire process of the reproductive system in humans and animals. She asked me, ” Where I learned that?” I told her, ” The encyclopedia!” It was then she knew I was going to impact lives in a major way. During the school year, I would also go with my great aunt to her school; she was a special education teacher for students with mild-moderate and autistic abilities. I would tutor them in various subjects of things that they were working on. Also, I would help my nanny, who is an educator as well, during the summers tutoring kids at summer school or summer camp. In college, I wanted to be a public relations specialist or work in the community engagement field, but I found myself drawn to teaching and learning. I loved to read so I majored in English Education. Since then, the concepts of teaching others has come natural to me.”
What do you think it takes to be a great teacher in this era?
KR: “In order to be a great teacher in this era, its a multitude of things. First, be culturally in-tuned to your students. Our classrooms are so diverse now; we have students that are white, black, bi-racial, Hispanic, Asian, Middle Eastern, African, French…very diverse backgrounds and cultures. Secondly, BUILD RELATIONSHIPS with your students. It’s important for teachers to understand that education and learning is not a “one-size-fits-all” approach or model. You have to differentiate to meet your students where they are. Additionally, have compassion and empathy because some children, regardless of age, look to us for love, support, guidance, and structure. These are things that they are lacking or don’t receive enough of in their home environment.”
What’s the best piece of advice you received when you were starting out in your line of work?
KR: ” First, get a mentor! Find someone in your field, at your school that can show you the ropes. Often times, you are a student teaching at A or B schools but get jobs at D or F schools. That causes teacher burnout and is a cause for teacher retention. Your mentor can support you and teach you things that he/she learned over the years. Secondly, treat these children as if it was somebody teaching your own child. In education, people tend to forget that generations change, expectations change, so children may not be raised how you were. Some teachers focus so much on being “the authority figure or the boss” that they experience resistance instantly because they don’t build relationships with students. We are living in a different generation where society has allowed children and parents to not be held accountable. Lastly, make sure to balance work and life. I really try not to take schoolwork home with me. As school teachers, we are paid 8 hours a day, but we work 50 hours or more a week. There are times that I have to take work home with me, but I also have a child myself that I need to help with homework, and other activities.”
What is a typical day like for you and what keeps you motivated?
KR: “LOL…there are no typical days! Every day is an adventure. My day starts off at 5:00 a.m. with prayer and meditation followed by the news/weather. I clock in to school at 6:45 am. From 7:00-11:03, I am in curriculum meetings, department meetings, common planning with my 10th grade partner teacher, leadership meetings, conducting teacher walk-throughs, team teaching or co-teaching (my lunch period is 10:30-11:03), then, I have two 10th grade classes: one at 11:03 am-12:45 pm, and 12:50 pm -2:25 pm. After school, I am the dance team sponsor and assistant basketball coach, so I am conducting practice from 2:45 pm-4:30 pm. I get my son from school at 3:30 pm, so he is with me during practice time. I work in my classroom until 6:00-7:00 pm for my own classroom planning purposes. Now, if it is professional development, or PD days, I am there at our district or state PD center from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. During professional development, we are learning new classroom and curriculum strategies implemented by the state or utilized in our classrooms. These things can range from technology integration to reading or language instructional strategies.”
Tell us more about your journey outside the classroom as you’re pretty active in your community as well. What have been some memorable experiences so far?
KR: “I’m very involved in the community, which is important in my line of work. It’s important for my students to see me in areas that they reside in, volunteering or giving back to their community because it shows that I’m invested in them. I typically volunteer in the following parishes: East Baton Rouge, Jefferson, Orleans, Tangipahoa, and St. Tammany because I have lived and grew up in those areas. I really believe in giving back to the community. My passion involves the arts and enhancing the African American community through educational and civic outreach. Growing up in a low socioeconomic household, some of those organizations that I volunteer for was how my family and I were able to survive. One of my most memorable experiences have been when I won the 2019 H. Norman Saurage III Community Service Award from the Dream Teachers Organization. I was very surprised to get nominated and place in the top 4. I really didn’t think I would win but to earn an achievement of such honor, it was very memorable. Another memorable experience was being named 2019-2020 East Baton Rouge District Middle School Teacher of the Year. I promise you…never in a million years would I have even dreamed of getting that honor! That is a special honor in itself. I really work hard and I really try to do right by my students and parents, so to know that my investment is reflected in my student achievement data, and my classroom management is a GREAT feeling.”
What advice do you have for someone who hasn’t figured out their purpose yet?
KR: “It will come in due time, so don’t rush it. Also, you have to explore and try new things to see what you really are good at. This can come in the form of a hobby or talent. Sometimes we really find ourselves confused or questioning our abilities, but if it comes easy to you, then more than likely you are beginning to walk in your purpose.”
What’s the biggest sacrifice of being a boss that isn’t obvious to the public eye?
“The biggest sacrifice is the loss of time. I try to value everybody’s time that I encounter because that is something that you can never get back. People don’t really understand that the road to success sometimes causes you to miss out on opportunities such as weddings, baby showers, birthday parties, or special things like that. Another sacrifice is that you will lose some friends or people along the way of your journey. Not everybody is meant to go with you when you elevate. Once you understand that some people are in your life for a season or a reason, peace will come over your life and career journey.”
What is your definition of success?
KR: “My definition of success is living in your passion and purpose. I personally define success by this outlook, “If I died today, would I be pleased with what I have accomplished so far in my life?”
What book/movie/podcast changed your life and why?
KR: “Whew…there are SO many it’s hard to name just one. For books, of course the Bible, and Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life because it helps me to understand what my purpose is here on earth and how to tap into my spiritual gifts to serve God. Multiplication is for White People: Raising Expectations For Other Peoples Children is great for me to reflect on the awareness and challenge preconceived notions that African American children are inferior to white children in the educational field. As for podcasts, I like to listen to The Link Up, The Family Meal, Small Doses with Amanda Seales, NEA Today School Me, and The Creative Classroom. These podcasts give me insight into real-world situations, help me with creative instructional strategies in urban education and motivations in the black community. For movies, I would say “Lean on Me”, “Bad Teacher”, and “Freedom Writers”. Well, I have worked in these conditions and worked with people that are characters in the movie.”
What can we expect from you in 2020?
KR: ” In 2020, I plan to be finished my doctorate in Higher Education Administration from Louisiana State University. After that, it’s whatever God has planned for me.”
About Kristin Robair
In her 9th year of teaching, Kristin’s positive impact influences the school campus, the district and the community. Ms. Robair is the ELA Content Leader and 10th grade teacher at Broadmoor Senior High School. She also serves on the school improvement, crisis, and leadership teams. She was named 2018-2019 Broadmoor Middle School Teacher of the Year to which she surpassed her peers to be honored as the 2019-2020 East Baton Rouge Parish District Middle School Teacher of the Year. Ms. Robair is a dedicated presenter during teacher in-services, and mentors new teachers as well as field students from local universities. Her English mastery benefits the entire district as a member of its Teacher Leader Cohort, taking part in policy decisions that ensure quality ELA and Social Studies instruction for students and resources for teachers throughout the East Baton Rouge Parish School System as well as the teacher recruitment team and Special Education Advisory Board. She has also participated in the EBR Cultural Relevant Pedagogy Cohort, which collaborated with the Humanities Amped program at McKinley High School. She has participated with Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) on several committees for ELA grades 6-12 and was selected as a 2019-2020 Mentor Teacher and ELA Content Leader for LDOE.
As a community member, Ms. Robair volunteers throughout the Baton Rouge, New Orleans, and Northshore community participating in projects for revitalization and has participated in various seminars that is geared toward improving literacy and enrichment. She has participated in many events fostering awareness with child abuse, nutritional health, breast cancer, domestic violence, education,, and financial literacy. She has been honored by various organizations in the cities of Hammond, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Baker for many of her community contributions.
Ms. Robair earned two Bachelor of Arts degrees in English Education and Mass Communication in 2011 from Southeastern Louisiana University and a Master of Public Administration in 2015 from Southern University and A&M College. She earned a Curriculum Specialist Certification from the Louisiana State University in 2018. Currently, she is a doctoral candidate at Louisiana State University, majoring in Educational Leadership and Research. Her focus involved urban education, interdisciplinary writing, pop culture and literacy, cultural relevant pedagogy, and multicultural literacy. Ms. Robair is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., American Research Educational Association (AERA), American Association of Blacks in Higher Education (AABHE) and the National Council of Teaching English (NCTE). She has a 10 year old son, Calvin, that she enjoys spending time with in addition to her hobbies that include traveling, reading, and cooking.