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Teacher Feature: Robyn West


By Barbara P. Jacoby

Robyn West’s love of helping others has influenced her own life and the hundreds of students she’s taught during her career.

The Dean Rusk MS eighth-grade English teacher has known since she was a little girl playing school with her baby doll that she wanted to be a teacher. A favorite childhood Christmas memory is the year she received a giant chalkboard, chalk, and a grade book as gifts.

“When in elementary school, I loved to be the teacher helper: hand out papers, take up papers, and even — back then — grade papers. So, here I am fulfilling my calling!” said West, who is in her 26th year as an educator. “As a teacher, the students are my ‘why,’ and I do my best to use this unique calling to make a difference every day.”

West is an avid school and community volunteer who has mentored new teachers, coached cheerleading, taught Sunday school and vacation Bible school, and delivered MUST Ministries summer lunches. She was also a longtime active service member and is a current honorary member of the Service League of Cherokee County.

“Volunteering in the school and the community is something I enjoy because I can serve others,” she said.

That spirit carries over into her lessons. One of her favorite examples is how she teaches research and informational writing standards. She has made charities the focus of the assignment and begins by inviting representatives of local charitable organizations to speak to the class about volunteerism and its importance.

Her effort to bring the real world into the classroom has expanded into a charity fair attended by all eighth graders. Students determine the need that matters most to them, then form a charity, explaining in writing how it would address the need. They name the charity, plan a real fundraiser, and design a logo and advertisements. The students then present their charity to their classmates and collect donations for their cause, which students make using play money West provides to the class.

“Because I teach eighth graders, I must be sneaky when encouraging them to get excited about learning!” she said. “I want the students to know it is okay to make a mistake, and we can work through anything together; it is a safe zone for them. Another way I encourage their learning is by giving them choices on assignments, which gives the students a sense of control, which they really like. I also have friendly competitions and offer rewards when we are learning and practicing unit standards. Most of all, though, it is the relationships that I build with them that make them want to come to my class and learn.”

What can parents do to help their child be as successful as possible at school?

“I believe that parents can foster independence, teach problem-solving skills, and help them create good habits like time management, organization, and self-advocacy. Having these skills will lead them to good grades, a successful school year, and being a productive citizen of their community,” said West.