By Alisha Thompson
Robyn Whaley’s story is a good one. She plays many roles in this story, too.
She’s a wife, mom, (was a) basketball coach, ACT prep course teacher, English teacher and the official wrangler of graduating seniors at Davis High School. A new role for Robyn? Well, that came of a surprise announcement at Davis High School surrounded by students and co-workers, she was named Davis High School Teacher of the Year.
Robyn said she knew she wanted to work with teenagers when she started helping her husband lead a youth group.
Her first teaching job was in Rush Springs and she was there for three years. “I was at Pauls Valley 13 years. Taught freshmen – seniors in English. I coached basketball, junior high and high school. I have a background in basketball. I stopped coaching when I had babies,” said Robyn.
Robyn knew she wanted to teach and felt this was a natural path for her. “I grew up in a farm community, Omega. I went to Southwestern in Weatherford to get my degree.” said Robyn. “When I got into college, yeah, I started working with a youth group and that was my first time to work with teenagers and junior high age kids. I kinda fell in love with that and it kinda happened naturally.”
Teaching wasn’t the first choice Robyn thought about for a career. “I thought I would head into criminal pathology. I love that kinda stuff, the science and forensics,” Robyn admitted. “I loved teaching writing and I loved teaching English. I definitely never could’ve been a math teacher. I think in college just having the opportunity to stumble into working with kids, it all naturally happened. I have an opportunity to hear their voices better in English.”
Teachers made a distinct impact on Robyn’s career choice. “I had an English teacher in English teacher in eighth grade named Mrs. Stenson and one in high school, Mrs. Gerber,” Robyn said. “I just started thinking about those people and emulate and be like.”
There was a teacher in fourth grade that made Robyn fall in love with reading, too. “I had teacher in fourth grade that totally captivated us by reading the first few pages of the book and then she always stopped a few pages in and said ‘if you want to know more, go check out the book.’ We wanted to be the first student to run into the library and check it out. I feel like I’m a collage of all those people or try to be, and remember what sparked me because I was a tough cookie to spark,” Robyn said.
She may have been a tough cookie to spark but she sure busted out of any box someone might’ve tried to put her in. “I have always been someone who does things out of the box. I feel like you have to do what is unexpected to surprise people,” Robyn said.
Robyn is a Nationally Board certified teacher. She has taken the test twice to retain her certificate. She even got the chance to help one of her high school teachers and mentor, Mrs. Gerber with her National Board Certification. “It’s funny because years later, my high school English teacher reached out to me and said I’m thinking about doing that would you read over my stuff and see if it’s okay. Oh, my gosh, Mrs. Gerber, I think you need to . . . . and she said you can call me Karen. I’m like no I can’t, you’ll always be Mrs. Gerber.” Robyn said with a laugh.
In Davis, she is the senior class sponsor. She is ACT national certified do ACT prep and this is one she’s particularly proud of. “This is my third year to do that. The kids who are working on their ACTs have really grown. They average 3 to 6 points growth on their ACTs.” Robyn said. “I love the fact these kids are wanting to do well.”
She teaches all of the seniors English and half of the juniors English.
“I push my students hard and then at the end they are like I see what you did there. They don’t always appreciate what you are doing but when they look back they see that you had their best interest at heart,” Robyn said. “This year has been so hard on everyone. Since we didn’t come back from spring break and trying to make graduation special for those seniors. While teaching virtually during quarantine, I don’t know how many kids said Mrs. Whaley if I had known that was the last time I was going to walk down the hallway as a senior.”
Grateful for some normalcy and a chance to move forward, Mrs. Whaley said that she’s seen a change in attitude with her students. “This year coming back you see such grateful hearts of kids. Towards the end here we are having to push them a little bit harder. But, they want to be here and they want that sense of normalcy. They want to be here and I think the best thing we can do for these kids is to make them feel safe. Take away some of the unknown anxiety. To have a routine and have sense a normalcy is so important,” Robyn said.
Robyn is finishing out her fourth year of Davis and her 24th year of teaching with the honor of Davis High School Teacher of the Year.
“I think being the teacher of the year is an incredible honor.,” Robyn said. “I am absolutely humbled by this group of people who are absolute rock stars. We are all pulling on the same load, covering for each other and helping each other. I love the people I work with. I love the parents that come in here. There is such a sense of community. I have always known of Davis since I taught at Pauls Valley for 13 years. I know the standard of excellence of football and academic. It’s neat to be Davis and I love it. It feels good for them to see what you’ve done and say you deserve it too. Here at Davis it’s been really neat to belong from the beginning and them just love you.”
Robyn continues to teach and her husband Lance has started a non-profit and has tried to help people through Covid. They have a son in Davis High School and a son in college. Robyn has no plans to leave the place she calls home. “I have always had a since that I needed to be in the community that we were trying to minister to. I wanted to be here. It’s been fun.” said Robyn.
By Alisha Thompson