Sonoma County Teacher Katya Robinson Named a California Teacher of the Year
A Sonoma County teacher has been named a California Teacher of the Year for 2020. The California Department of Education (CDE) announced on Friday, Oct. 4, that West Sonoma County Special Education Consortium Teacher Katya Robinson was one of five educators in California to be recognized with the state’s top honor for teachers. It appears to be the first time a Sonoma County teacher has achieved this level of recognition.
Robinson, who lost her Coffey Park home during the Tubbs Fire in 2017, was on a walk-through of her newly rebuilt home when State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond called to share the good news. “I was pretty shocked,” she said. “My first reaction was, ‘This is awesome!’ I’m glad it’s bringing recognition to Sonoma County.”
Robinson said that the news came at the end of two years filled with extreme highs and lows. “I think this whole Teacher of the Year thing came about because after I lost my home, I poured myself into teaching as the one thing that was consistent and felt good, that allowed me to be creative and artistic while working with these delightful kids,” she said. “During the last two years, teaching saved my life.”
Robinson teaches a special education class for kindergarten through third graders with the West Sonoma County Special Education Consortium. This consortium provides special education services to multiple school districts in west Sonoma County.
She was nominated for her energetic, thoughtful, and inclusive approach to serving her students with moderate to severe disabilities. Robinson says that her goal is to “teach herself out of a job” by helping her students address their educational challenges and transition back into a general education classroom with their peers.
In her application for Teacher of the Year, Robinson wrote, “My students are some of the most unique individuals in the world and my standards and vision for them remain high because I see their place in the world; and I know how to get them to be their best selves...I do this by building strong relationships, so my students understand that I won’t let them fail and teaching that mistakes are part of learning.”
In addition to artfully meeting the needs of her students, Robinson also mentors prospective special education teachers and finds innovative ways to ensure that her students are included in the broader school community. Robinson has expanded the Special Olympics at her school in order to create a way for students with disabilities to feel included and successful. She also started and leads a popular community sports program for children with special needs, called Epic Athletes. Now, she is launching a new nonprofit, Sonoma Kids Outreach Recreation and Education, that will provide scholarships to support Epic Athletes and promote equal access to recreation programs.
Robinson said that she is excited to help lead the effort for more inclusive education in Sonoma County and beyond. “Kids with disabilities have a right to be in the least restrictive environment, and I’ll keep on promoting that,” she said.
“I believe that Katya’s dedication and commitment exemplify the high quality of teachers we have in Sonoma County,” said Steve Herrington, Sonoma County Superintendent of Schools. “It was an honor to endorse her nomination.” Each year, the Sonoma County Office of Education selects one teacher to represent the county in the statewide contest. Robinson was selected as the Sonoma County nominee in April.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond said in a press release Friday that Robinson and the other four Teachers of the Year will be great ambassadors for the profession. The 2020 California Teachers of the Year and finalists will be honored by the CDE at a gala to be announced at a later date.