Orlando Robinson, West Charlotte High School

  • Orlando Robinson first discovered a passion for teaching in high school but says perhaps he was running away from that insight until he changed careers 24 years ago. In high school, he was a member of the “French Cadets,” students who had reached French III and were partnered with an elementary school to teach first graders French. “I got the bug then,” he said.

    After graduating from UNCC in 1997, Robinson began a career in sales. When his company consolidated operations, he decided against moving to Georgia with the job. A friend asked him if he’d thought about teaching. “I said no,” shared Robinson. But he decided to give it a try, teaching language arts and math at Bradley Middle School. “From day one,” he said, “I knew this was it. I had a feeling in my gut; this is what I’m supposed to be doing for the rest of my life.”

    An early and important mentor for Robinson was Carol Owen, principal at Bradley Middle School when Robinson was a principal intern, and the administrator he says he learned the most from. A 30-year veteran of CMS, Carol Owen retired 14 years ago and coaches principals on effective time management and leadership. She said she knew right away Robinson was destined for great things.

    “Early on, it was clear he had an amazing passion for believing all students can and will learn, and he understood the importance of supporting and nurturing his teachers. He has endless enthusiasm for the work. He infuses fun into the job; he loves his job; and he brings positive energy each and every day,” said Owen. “There is no question he will take West Charlotte to great heights and beyond.”

    The best thing about being a principal, according to Robinson, is that every day is new; every day is different. “I love to be able to influence kids, students and staff. To see the staff grow and see how we are restoring our families’ confidence in public education. Even after all these years, I still get butterflies on the first day of school.”

    Robinson says there’s no place like West Charlotte. At 85 years old, there’s tremendous history and legacy. “West Charlotte was a symbol in America in how you can achieve integration peacefully and how people from different races, ethnic backgrounds, socio-economic backgrounds can come together, learn from each other, and do great things,” he said.

    When asked about the most important qualities of a successful principal, Robinson said, “You need to be a people person and be able to connect with all types of people. This is mission work – you take it home with you every night and on weekends. It’s more than a job.”

    Another leader Robinson considers a mentor is Dr. Devonya Govan-Hunt, who worked with Robinson at Reedy Creek Elementary School and Northridge Middle School as PTSA President. Currently, she is a community partner at West Charlotte and president of the Charlotte affiliate of the National Black Child Development Institute. Dr. Hunt says Robinson inspires everyone around him to be their best selves. “Orlando understands how important school culture is in a child's academic career and has a unique ability to see children within the context of families, and families within the context of communities,” she said. “I am always inspired by how he manages to spark new life and reignite passion in other educators by simply reminding them of what they bring to the table. He's incredible!”

    Robinson knows that for some students, the school day is the best part of their day. He is focused on “seeing” every kid and bringing joy to education.

    Hearing Robinson’s passion and commitment to his students, families and staff goes a long way toward restoring confidence in public education. He lives that confidence, as his daughter is a West Charlotte junior.

    “For me, my purpose is aligned with my passion. I am doing what I love to do,” said Robinson.