Richmond, VA

Richmond fourth-grader speaks about public school education at Yale University

Margaret Minnicks
Elijah RobinsPhoto byElijah Robins

Elijah Robins is a fourth-grade student at Mary Munford Elementary School in Richmond, Virginia. His goal is to become an engineer. Last month, he became the youngest student to present a science curriculum at Yale University’s National Initiative, a program dedicated to strengthening teaching in public schools. Robins represented the entire city of Richmond.

His teacher Valerie Schwarz recommended him to be one of the four students across the country to speak in front of an auditorium of peers, Yale University professors, and other faculty members. The four students represented English, science, and math curricula being taught in K-12 schools across the country. She said she saw early in the school year that Elijah was very comfortable speaking in front of others, and he had a real presence about him.

Richmond Public Schools is one of 11 school districts across the country selected to participate in the program. Teachers are required to apply to participate every year. Ms. Schwartz has represented Richmond as a Yale fellow in the program for several years, and she coordinates the student panel. Elijah is the first of her students to present on a unit she has instructed.

Schwarz added:

“I kind of said, I have a student and he has it. It’s kind of hard to say what ‘it’ was, but he has a presence, he has charisma.”

Elijah's passions

Elijah has a passion for space and science. At the conference, he shared things he has learned in this year’s school curriculum with a room full of people much older than he is. The topic of life on different planets, There’s No “Space” Like Home piqued Robins’ interest.

Elijah explained:

“I wasn’t comparing myself I was thinking of them as an equal. They were teachers, and they weren’t going to say anything bad to you, but…they were teachers…and they were older and knew more stuff.”

Public speaking is something that has always come naturally to Elijah. With support from his teacher, peers, and family, he described his experience as both exciting and nerve-wracking. He said he knew the end goal of showcasing his knowledge with others was going to be worth the pressure and hard work.

Elijah concluded:

“It’s more about not thinking about what would you do if you did mess up. It’s more about what would happen if you don’t mess up, like what good could come out of this, not what’s bad.”

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I love pop culture, movies, television, and entertainment. I keep up to date on the latest movies and television shows. I like sharing news about them. I also like sharing information about different foods and their health benefits. I have been a high school teacher and a college professor for over 50 years and an online writer for over 30 years. I have three degrees: BA in English and Literature, MA in Christian Education, and MDiv in Theology. Get to know me through my writing.

Richmond, VA

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