Thank You, Mrs. Zulekha Robinson!

This year our Teacher Honoree representing the Chicago region is Mrs. Zulekha Robinson, a Pre-K grade teacher at Wendell Smith Elementary School.

Mrs. Robinson recognized quite early in the pandemic that it was going to be a unique school year, particularly as she observed and understood the emotional impact the pandemic was having on her young students. As she sprang into action to address this immediate need, Mrs. Robinson used the opportunity to teach her students about the different feelings they may have been experiencing. Her students not only learned more about themselves, they were also able to express themselves in a positive learning environment.

The steps Mrs. Robinson took allowed her students to feel seen and heard every day. Mrs. Robinson believes it is critical that young learners tap into their own emotions and process them, and that incorporating this practice regularly can empower them and strengthen the learning experience. 

Join us on June 10 for our Raise a Glass for Reading fundraising event as we celebrate and thank Mrs. Zulekha Robinson for her amazing work this year!

Sally Pickney, a Coach in our Chicago region, took some time to shine a spotlight on Mrs. Zulekha Robinson. We asked Sally a few questions about her teacher honoree. See what she shared:

Q: What did your teacher identify as her children’s needs during this pandemic?

A: Mrs. Robinson knew early on that there would be many needs during this unique year. She knew that students would have a lot of feelings and may not know how to express them. To address this immediate need, Mrs. Robinson allowed children to express those feelings in a safe space and a healthy way during her morning meeting. Children learned about the different feelings they may have and each child shared their feelings daily. Mrs. Robinson always acknowledged each child's feelings, whatever they were. This allowed children to feel seen and heard daily. She believed this would allow children to tap into their own emotions, process them, and empower them.

As she learned more about her students, other needs were apparent. Students needed academic resources like pencils, crayons, and paper at home and she began getting supplies ready that Pre-K students would need, so parents could pick them up. She also saw families were in need of other basic needs and would openly share with all families where they could go to pick up meals and how to reach out to family services for other needs they may have.

Q: How has your teacher shown resilience during this school year?

A: Mrs. Robinson has shown great resiliency this school year. She began the year virtually and had to completely adjust her teaching methods in all new ways. She patiently helped parents, other staff, and her students navigate a virtual world with a calm presence.

Chicago Public Schools had a lot of press around how and when students would start to come back into the classroom. The district plan determined Pre-K would be one of the first set of students to go back in and while the union and the district worked on negotiations around how this would look, pulling teachers in the building and out and back in again, Mrs. Robinson did not waver. She got her classroom ready and prepared for students to return confidently. She did not let the turmoil of the outside distraction deter her from providing the best instruction she could deliver each day.

Q: How has your teacher cultivated community within his/her classroom?

A: Mrs. Robinson cultivates a wonderful community in her classroom. This year has provided the opportunity to get to know children on a whole different level. As the year began her Pre-K students were all on-line, and they needed a lot of support which encouraged caregivers and siblings to be right there with her. Her community of learners instantly doubled. She got to know her children in a more comprehensive way. She used this opportunity to help caregivers learn ways to help their child while on-line and while they were independently working too. She included other family members in lessons and conversations. 

Mrs. Robinson also made it a priority to allow students to have plenty of time to be seen and heard in her meetings. The time spent sharing feelings, modeling encouragement, and teaching listening skills helped everyone in the classroom feel important and part of the community of learning. Once in person learning started, children instantly felt connected to each other. Relationships were strong and Mrs. Robinson continued to include at home learners by letting them be in all parts of the classroom from the dramatic play area to the morning meetings that occur.

Q: How is the teacher creating some sense of normalcy within his/her classroom?

A: Mrs. Robinson has created a sense of normalcy in her classroom by being a consistent, calm, and loving presence each day whether it is front of the screen or in person. She has routines in place that make the day feel predictable and safe. She has continued her engaging units of study that she normally teaches by making lesson accessible with what children already have at home and bringing in real life situations to her classroom. Just like years before, caterpillars are being observed in person and through the screen. The dramatic play features the unit of study like a recycling center all while children at home participate through a screen with children there so they can interact together.

Q: How has your relationship with your teacher grown?

A: My relationship with Mrs. Robinson has been easy. Mrs. Robinson and I never met before this year so we have developed a quick rapport with one another. She let me into her on-line classroom with open arms and has continued to throughout the year. She is a life long learner and is always looking for ways to help her students learn in new ways and have more experiences with individuals who have the same goal as she does. Mrs. Robinson is an amazing example to her students.


Raise a Glass for Reading!

After a season of showcasing the unique stories of the teachers we serve and emphasizing the importance and impact of continued support for our teachers, schools, and larger communities, we come together to celebrate literacy! 

Showcase your commitment to children’s literacy, early childhood education and social justice, and join us June 10 for a wonderful event.

Click here to learn more and secure tickets! >>