Apr 20, 2012 - By Christina George, Staff WriterFort Washakie School librarian Robin Levin is one of 10 Wyoming educators who will be honored Friday, April 13, in Cheyenne as an Arch Coal Foundation Teacher Achievement Award recipient.
"I was very surprised to get that call," Levin said.
Last year, Levin earned the Golden Apple Achiever certificate from the Arch Coal Foundation, which is second to the Achievement Award, the foundation's highest honor.
Every year, Arch Coal presents K-12 teachers in Wyoming, Utah and West Virginia with the Achievement Award.
Students, peers and community members nominate teachers. Levin is unsure who nominated her for the award this year.
Former winners choose recipients.
"It's nice to be honored by teachers," Levin said. "That means a lot."
Levin receiving the award is also historic. She's the first-ever school librarian to receive it.
According to Arch Coal's website, the company believes the nation's success begins in classrooms that are led by exceptional teachers.
"That's why one of our largest community programs in Wyoming, West Virginia and Utah is our annual Teacher Achievement Awards," the site states. "We honor teachers who dare their students to succeed, and then teach them how."
Levin admits hesitation when deciding to apply for the award this year after being nominated.
"I debated the value about making a second attempt at it," she said.
She sought advice from various people, who all urged her to do it again because she was "that close" last time, she said holding up a finger and her thumb about an inch apart.
One of the incentives to make a second attempt was the $3,500 cash reward that comes with the award. Levin doesn't plan to spend the dollars on herself.
"That is not my money," she said, adding she intends to disperse funds to others. "The more you give, the more it gives back."
Her job is not just about assisting students with checking out books from the library. On average, Levin says she teaches seven to nine classes a day in the library. There is storytelling, research skills and augmenting what teachers are trying to instill in their classrooms.
"The academic integrity of library times meets classroom needs," Levin said.
She also teaches special topics at the middle- and high-school levels, mostly focusing on multicultural studies.
Levin has always been interested in cultures. She grew up in a New York suburb where she was exposed to various backgrounds during a time when the civil rights movement was in full swing.
"It was a very exciting time to be a teenager," she said. "And you learned to respect everybody."
Her family, including her mother, promoted multicultural experiences in Levin's life.
She started working at Fort Washakie School 31 years ago and has remained there ever since, with the exception of a three-year stint in a small Greek village and a librarian position at St. Stephen's Indian School. She returned to Fort Washakie in 2003.
Levin recalled feeling an "electric charge" when she first arrived at Fort Washakie.
"I have a passion for what I do," she said.
Levin's devotion to students involves reading children's books to keep up with what youngsters are interested in. Right now, she can't get enough of young teen dystopian novels.
"I try to read as many books as I can," she said. "I don't read adult books very much, maybe four or five a month at the most. I read five to seven kid's books a week."
"I think a person has to ask 'what is your motivation,'" she said. "My motivation is sharing knowledge."
Levin has a master's degree in educational media technology and is an active student at the graduate level.
"Learn what you can, learn when you can," she said about her lifelong zest for education.
She credited the staff at Fort Washakie and the team-effort approach at the library for the school's success.
"Our staff from top to bottom is exceptional," she said.
Gov. Matt Mead, First Lady Carol Mead and Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill are expected to attend the ceremony April 13 at South High School in Cheyenne. After the luncheon, Levin will attend another reception hosted by librarians as sort of a "yea for us" celebration, she said.
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