News from the Arizona Daily Star

Outreach to kids, parents make Robles a Rodel winner

By Alexis Huicochea, Arizona Daily Star – November 28, 2014

When Marnie Robles steps in front of her students, she is on a mission to ensure they are learning.

While student achievement data show she is meeting that goal, it’s what is ingrained in those reading, math and science lessons that will serve her first-grade students for years to come — a love of learning, the ability to think critically, and a deep respect for others.

The Cavett Elementary School teacher is now being honored as a 2015 Rodel Exemplary Teacher, an award that recognizes educators for outstanding student achievement in high-poverty schools, effective classroom practices and their potential to be outstanding mentors to future teachers.

In Robles’ south-side classroom, it is never enough to simply know an answer. Robles regularly follows up student responses with the question, “How did you know?” — forcing children not only to prove their understanding of concepts but also to share their knowledge with their peers.

Though speaking in front of a room full of people is a daunting task for many adults, the students in Robles’ class feel safe doing so.

“I want them to know that when they are within our classroom, we are a community of learners, and I want them to feel trusted and at ease with taking risks and know that whatever they say is going to be validated,” Robles said. “It may not always be the right thing, but we are going to guide them.

“I think one of the best ways to understand if a child knows something is when they are able to explain their thinking and when they do, you celebrate those accomplishments.”

The praise for taking educational risks comes not only from Robles but from the students themselves, with one student telling another during a recent reading lesson that the classmate was “on fire” after answering a question correctly.

While Robles works hard to create that classroom culture, she does not forget that she and her students are there to do a job.

She uses her checks for understanding and district assessments to track student progress. Students also know where they stand, because Robles reviews the data with them, always keeping the end in mind.

Robles’ commitment does not stop there, said Cavett Principal Elsa Corral-Aguirre.

“(Robles) communicates with parents daily via newsletter, phone calls, meeting after school,” Corral-Aguirre said.

“Then she takes it to the next level and teaches and trains parents how to support their child in completing homework, reading practice and comprehension, and how to help students be successful at home and in the classroom.”

Corral-Aguirre went on to say that Robles “exemplifies excellence” and truly believes that all students can learn, making her the perfect pick for the Rodel Exemplary Teacher Award.

Contact reporter Alexis Huicochea at ahuicochea@tucson.com or 573-4175. On Twitter: @AlexisHuicochea