'It's all about the kids': Dallastown Area teacher's hard work pays off

Meredith Willse
York Dispatch

A Dallastown Area High School teacher’s hard work and passion recently were recognized with the 2022 Teacher Impact Award.  

Matt Robinson, 37, of Dallastown, has 15 years of teaching behind him, with four years at Dallastown Area and before that 11 in Spring Grove Area School District.   

Robinson said he was awestruck when he learned that he was one of seven teachers to win the Teacher Impact Award through WITF and Rotary District 7390, which was announced May 2. 

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He currently teaches accounting and multiple business classes and helps the Future Business Leaders of America club.

Assistant Principal Rebekah McCauley gave Robinson a heads-up that she had nominated him, he recalled, but he did not think the nomination would amount to anything.  

"I like to do a good job and put in time and effort, but don’t want the spotlight for it,” Robinson said. “It’s all about the kids, not about me.”  

Robinson does appreciate the name of the award. Impact is what teaching is all about for him, he said, including building a rapport with students, making memories, learning and possibly building a career field after the classes.   

McCauley nominated Robinson because he puts in extra effort and shows a lot of passion in what he does, she said. Robinson comes in early and stays late. He shows off his humor in his classroom with a student-gifted cutout of Dwight, a character from “The Office” TV show, sitting not far from his desk.

A wall of fame sits close to the classroom door and spotlights famous athletes such as Eli Brooks, an American college basketball player, and Olympic swimmer Hali Flickinger — both of whom attended school in Spring Grove.

"I’d like to think that I have everything to do with her being a bronze medalist,” Robinson joked, admitting Flickinger had one semester with him.   

On the other side of the room, a financial ticker flashes stock information for the students to track and spark daily conversation.   

Dallastown Area High School teacher Matt Robinson poses Tuesday behind his desk covered in students' work, accomplishments and other decorations.

The rest of his skills shine in the middle of the classroom, where Robinson works with the students. McCauley said he teaches interactive lessons such as a supply chain simulation he did earlier this year. Robinson brought in outside sources, including professors from York College. The students learned what it takes to order and sell cell phones.   

Students can earn incentives in his class, such as during the question of the day: If a team of students answers correctly, the students can win a fake dollar. At the end of the semester, the team with the highest amount wins candy.   

“Students love his class,” McCauley said. “You can see it; you can hear them talk about it.”  

One of his strengths, she said, is teaching with hands-on lessons, storytelling, real-life examples and games, such as Family Feud or a Wordle game. Every class is connected to his content and Robinson keeps the classroom environment active.   

The teacher credits his teaching style to many role models and his philosophy of learning and adapting.   

He will not take all of the spotlight. Robinson said the work is a collaborative effort in his department, made up of four teachers, including department head Rob Donatelli.   

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On top of the interactive classes, Robinson keeps up with educational technology. He has started to use Nearpod, a presentation tool he describes as more engaging than PowerPoint.   

McCauley said he bonds with the students because he builds a rapport with them. He shows them someone cares about them as people first.   

“He is the epitome of the philosophy of why we are here,” said Theresa Lewis, the school’s community relations specialist, explaining that Robinson is a teacher students will never forget.   

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The other teachers winning Impact Awards are Jonathan Makowski of Adams County, Diane Root of Cumberland County, Michael Bricker of Dauphin County, Tammy Sweeney of Lancaster County, Sabrina Ramirez of Lebanon County and Rosario Eppley of Perry County.  

In addition to the award, the teachers will receive a $500 check for classroom materials. 

The award ceremony is 6 p.m. May 24 at the WITF Public Media Center. It is an in-person ceremony with buffet-style appetizers available. Tickets are $35 per person and are available at www.witf.org/events/.  

WITF will accept 2023 Teacher Impact Award nominations in January 2023.   

— Reach Meredith Willse at mwillse@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @MeredithWillse.