President Donald Trump has let it be known that he will not be handing out this year’s National Teacher of the Year award. Presidents attending this prestigious event and handing out the award date back to President Harry Truman.
Many believe that Trump’s bucking of this year’s event is directly linked to the fact that this year’s award winner, Rodney Robinson, is African American.
Robinson is a beloved social studies teacher in a juvenile detention center located in Richmond, Virginia. The awards ceremony will be held later today.
At this year’s event Betsy Devos, the Education Secretary, will be handing out the award on the White House grounds instead of inside the oval office as Trump has done in previous years.
Nancy Rodriguez, a spokesperson for the Council of Chief State School Officers, which organizes the program, said in an email that” it’s the council’s understanding that Trump won’t be in attendance. She said that while U.S. presidents have often given out the award, the group is aware of at least nine other instances when someone else — such as the vice president or first lady — has done so. The award program started in 1952.”
Trump handed out the award last year to Mandy Manning, a white English teacher who teaches immigrants and refugees at Washington State. During the ceremony, Manning handed Trump a letter from one of her students, a Rwandan immigrant. The letter urged Trump to “take more care” with the language he uses when discussing refugees. Manning also wore a pin that read “Trans Equality Now.”
During the ceremony honoring Manning, Trump spoke about the honored longevity of the tradition of president’s bestowing the Teacher of the Year Award.
“Every president since Harry Truman has honored the National Teacher of the Year, and I’m proud to continue this tradition with this year’s recipient: Mandy Manning, of the state of Washington,” Trump stated at the time.
In 2017, Trump, inside the White House, awarded the Teacher of the Year to Sydney Chaffee, a white teacher from a public charter school teacher in Boston. During that ceremony, Trump called it “really something special that an educator from charter schools, which he and DeVos support, had won.”
Robinson, 40, had stated before he won the Teacher of the Year Award that if he did win the prestigious award, that he would attend the ceremony at the White House, something many sports teams like the Virginia men’s basketball team, refused to do since Trump took office.
“It’s to honor the people who worked for people with little respect for them,” said Robinson, referring to slaves who built the White House. “It’s not about Trump.”
Robinson states that he has made plans to travel the country to spread the message that students of color need more teachers of color and that schools in impoverished communities needed more resources.
Robinson also shared plans to call needed attention to “equitable funding in schools, showcase historically black colleges and universities and promote teaching as a profession.”
Robinson had stated that he wanted a moment to speak to Trump after the award ceremony about prison reform and supporting education for incarcerated students.
“I think we need to get rid of the stigma that no learning can take place in the juvenile justice system,” Robinson told Education Week. “Kids come in with the opportunity to reset and refocus. Governments have a responsibility to adequately fund these education programs so that students can make the best of that opportunity,” he said.
“Of all Americans, it may be the president who most needs to hear Rodney’s message of equity, inclusion, and justice,” Superintendent Jason Kamras said. “As Rodney has so powerfully demonstrated with his work, our greatness as a country comes from the millions of people of all backgrounds who strive every day to right the wrongs of the past so we can become a more perfect union.”
It is not known, at this time, what Trump will be doing while Robinson is honored. The ceremony will take place this afternoon The event has been closed to the press.