Each year, Donna Robles organizes food drives, donates clothes to those in need and sends care packages to soldiers abroad. But she believes her greatest contribution to the community is being an educator.
Mission CISD’s Elementary Teacher of the Year had the importance of education instilled in her by her father. He came from a family of twelve and was the first and only one to graduate from high school, but he challenged her to be the first to graduate from college.
“I want to inspire students and let them know they can succeed in life regardless of what labels they may have,” Robles said. “I believe that teaching gives me the opportunity to do so every single day.”
Her education philosophy is based on the idea that every child has the right to a quality education. Being part of a public school district means teaching students from every background, and that means working with students with diverse backgrounds and abilities, she said.
Part of Robles’ teaching strategy involves building positive relationships with her students no matter how challenging it may be. She respects them, listens to them and provides a caring environment, the teacher of 23 years said.
“When students feel that their teacher displays genuine concern, the classroom becomes a happier place for everyone,” she said. “My classroom has high standards, as well as an atmosphere that celebrates each child’s uniqueness. I acknowledge their efforts and am very careful not to dismiss or put down anything they may offer.”
The second grade teacher believes her greatest achievements are not from the awards or certificates on her wall, but from the success of her students. Seeing progress throughout the school year or having a former student return validates her in her profession, she said.
“It never gets old to see students develop pride and self-confidence in their abilities and awareness of their potential,” Robles said. “It is rewarding to see the students’ excitement about math when they say, ‘I get it!’”
Robles is also a mentor teacher, UIL number sense and mathematics coach and curriculum writer for math and science.
But math didn’t always come easy to her. The Midkiff Elementary teacher remembers the times when her father would sit with her patiently as she struggled to complete her math homework. He serves as a model for the type of teacher she strives to be.
One year an autistic student with a reputation that preceded him was placed in her class. The summer before the school year started, she sought out training and workshops to ensure that she gave him the best education possible.
It was one of the most rewarding school years, she said.
“After all these years I still find value in each child that enters my classroom and my desire is to reach each of them in a meaningful way,” Robles said. “I still want learning to be fun and exciting, and I still want them to want to succeed and feel challenged.”