Grand Marshals are a Mardi Gras tradition. These flamboyant leaders are appointed to lead Mardi Gras parades, engage guests, and dance their way down the parade route. In short, they’re the life of the party, which ensures everyone has a great time celebrating New Orleans’ festivities.
At NOLA Education, we select one educator to serve as the Grand Marshal of our Krewe of Astraea celebration each season. This leader is selected from a nationwide pool of educators for their demonstrated excellence within their Star Academy classroom and engagement within the Krewe of Astraea client community, which is celebrated at the Star Academy Summit.
This fall, the NOLA Team selected Sharianita Robinson to serve as Grand Marshal for the Krewe of Astraea festivities. And while Sharianita does an incredible job engaging and encouraging students, we don’t anticipate seeing her dance her way down a parade route anytime soon: Sharianita is a humble teacher that prefers to maintain a low profile whenever possible. It’s in the life of her students, however, that she’s making significant impacts worthy of a hearty celebration!
Her Star Academy Classroom in Phoenix, AZ
Sharianita Robinson is a Star Academy teacher at Career Success Schools in Phoenix, AZ. She’s passionate about connecting with her students and helping them grow in any way possible. Sharianita recently sat down to describe what it meant to be awarded the Grand Marshal honor in her kind, soft-spoken way.
“Initially, I was overwhelmed, but also thrilled to learn that I was selected to be this year’s Grand Marshal. The honor truly means a lot” said Sharianita. “You see, I teach to inspire and motivate young learners, not for recognition. But it is an amazing feeling to know that people are noticing what we as teachers do to educate our students and help them prosper in society.”
When describing her classroom and the “wins” her students are experiencing thanks to the Star Academy program – with which she’s been affiliated for nearly four years – Sharianita had a great deal to say.
“Students are so much more engaged when they’re a part of project-based learning opportunities like the ones Star Academy provides,” said Sharianita. “They’re so actively involved in their learning: they have so much more to say when they’re working on a project or experiment. It opens them up for conversation and to ask questions.”
And all of that conversation and activity? It creates a level of excitement that’s contagious.
“Students in our classrooms can immerse themselves in the lessons and experiments that excite themselves and their classmates,” Sharianita told us. “ I often have students ask if they can skip ahead to certain modules just so they can do the experiments at that particular station. That’s because they saw or heard how cool that lesson was and want to experience it for themselves.”
Career Success School is a charter school that helps reach at-risk students struggling with academic or behavioral performance. Sharianita encourages students not to get bogged down in their past but to focus on the present and future.
“A lot of these kids have had tough experiences, and they struggle to visualize a positive future,” Sharianita told us. “That’s why I constantly encourage them to remember that completing their education is their first major milestone in adult life. I tell them they didn’t come this far to quit – they’ve put in the time, effort, stress, and tears to get this far. There’s no way I’m going to allow you to fail (not graduate).”
Leaders & Loved Ones Who Shaped Her Life
Sharianita even recalled to us a time when she struggled as a student, but a teacher made a lasting impact in her life.
“I remember struggling to comprehend some of the things we were learning, and it was hard to connect with my teachers and ask for help. No one knew me or took the time to understand how I learned – my parents were in the military, so we moved around a lot – but when I got to high school, one teacher took the time to get to know me. She even encouraged me outside the classroom: on the basketball court when I played for the school team. Knowing that someone cared about me helped me focus in her and other classes. That sense of connection makes you feel more comfortable in your learning environment.“
When asked if anyone in her life made a lasting impact in her becoming the woman and teacher she was today, her answer was immediate: everyone.
“Everyone I’ve ever come into contact with has impacted my life and gotten me where I am today. All of my teachers growing up and the teachers and administrators I work with today,” Sharianita said. “One of my current administrators, Mr. Dameon Blair in particular, is always helping me get better, and he supports his educators in a way that allows us to be ourselves and lead with confidence.”
“My family has also made an immeasurable impact on my life,” Sharianita recalled. “My aunts and uncles helped raise my brothers and me when our parents were deployed. The values my family upholds were instilled in my brothers and me from day one, and that helped shape us into who we are today.”
“Most of all, however, I would thank my mother, Siobhan for all she’s taught me,” said Sharianita. “She’s the most dedicated, hard-working person I know, and she always cared about not just who we were but who we were becoming. I owe so much of who I am today to her.”
Being named the Grand Marshal of NOLA Education’s Krewe of Astraea is an honor in which Sharianita can be very proud. And while this award’s Mardi Gras roots are all about pomp and circumstance, Sharianita’s humble and relentlessly student-focused spirit is definitely worthy of the awe and celebration associated with the title.