School wasn’t always easy or enjoyable for Robyn Tibbetts, who grew up in Decatur, went to Westchester Elementary School and graduated from Decatur High School in 1994.
Tibbetts said if it weren’t for the teachers who pushed her each day to go above and beyond expectations, she doesn’t know where she would be today, but was almost certain she wouldn’t be the City Schools of Decatur Teacher of the Year.
“It was a nice, pleasant surprise; I was very honored,” Tibbetts said. “I was able to do it because of everybody else supporting me–teachers, kids, parents and community included.”
Since 2001, Tibbetts has been teaching at Renfroe Middle School. Prior to that, she worked with children in after-school and summer programs while in college.
“I was majoring in English and history, and I really got a lot out of working with kids,” Tibbetts said.
Tibbetts said her desire to teach wasn’t a big revelation as it is for some, but rather a slow building on her love for children until one day she realized it was there.
“There wasn’t one pivotal point; it was kind of a series,” she said.
She wanted to give back to the community where she grew up, so Tibbetts applied for a position at Renfroe Middle School. Since then she has developed a teaching strategy that tailors to each student, taking into consideration their individual styles of learning.
“I have a lot of different strategies, and I’m constantly learning and growing like everyone else here,” Tibbetts said.
Throughout her career, Tibbetts said, she has tried to learn a number of techniques to better understand how children learn.
“I’ve gotten my Gifted Endorsement and my Reading Endorsement, because reading is such a big part of learning,” Tibbetts said, “and I’m flexible enough whereas if something isn’t working we do something different.”
Principal Derrick Thomas said Tibbetts tries to reach kids where they are, or bring herself to their level.
“She brings in things that tend to validate what the kids like,” Thomas said.
Thomas said that during her tenure at Renfroe, Tibbetts has assumed a leadership role in the development of the school’s International Baccalaureate program, which is in its second year. Tibbetts also helped organize a recent two-day field trip to Rock Eagle, a retreat center in Eatonton.
“Our middle school students have not had an overnight field trip in nearly 10 years and we took 130 seventh graders on the trip of a lifetime,” Thomas said.
Thomas said he was impressed with the way Tibbetts and other teachers helped organize the trip, which took nearly five months of planning and lots of time outside of work. He said he was excited about her winning the award but was nearly just as surprised as she was at the announcement.
“We don’t find out the winner of the system until the day of—I didn’t know right up until the moment almost,” Thomas said.
Tibbetts said her favorite thing about the award was being recognized by her peers. She said she was also grateful for the close-knit group of teachers she works with.
“I really respect the colleagues that I work with and our middle school is very team oriented, and I feel like I can do what I do because of them,” Tibbetts said.
Twenty years from now, Tibbetts said, she still hopes to be playing some direct role in the lives of children, whether it is as a teacher or working with other teachers. Tibbetts said if she gave up teaching, “I’d probably invent some job that hasn’t been created yet but definitely in the field of education.”
“What gets me out of bed in the morning are the kids,” she said.