Rob Stephenson’s amazing day was in May 2009. Stephenson was in the running to be Michigan’s Teacher of the Year. Over the School’s intercom it was announced that everyone needed to attend an impromptu assembly, which he imagined was to discuss the closing of Wardcliff Elementary, where he has worked for the past 16 years.
What didn’t fit was that there was a cluster of media in the audience, and that his wife and kids, who did not attend Wardcliff, were there. The next thing he knew, it was announced that he was Michigan’s Teacher of the Year.
“It was such an amazing day, and it hasn’t stopped being such an amazing day,” said Stephenson.
More recently, Stephenson found himself in the final four teachers in the country in the running for National Teacher of the Year. Although he did not receive the honor, he still is more than happy with getting that far and knowing he will have more time for his kids, Rebecca and Andrew.
“I love doing things with my kids,” said Stephenson. He justified his children attending a different school by saying, “I never want my kids to have to wait in line to hug me.”
Stephenson grew up in Kent, OH, and attended Kent State University (KSU), where his father was a professor of theater. He chose to follow in his father’s footsteps and earned a bachelor’s degree in theater. From there, Stephenson went to California, but never attended one interview.
Instead, he discovered one of his greatest passions in woodworking, which came in handy in crafting both the inside and outside of his house, along with a two story playhouse for his children.
“I’ll never be done with the house,” said Stephenson.
The decision to go back to school to become a teacher came from helping out a girl at his apartment complex with her homework. Her mother stated he should be a teacher, which he scoffed at, but his wife, Jamie, thought it would be a great fit for him. He decided to start working with the school systems in California, and soon found himself back at KSU to get his masters in elementary education.
Stephenson still uses his theater experience in the classroom to make up songs to help the children remember things they’ve learned, and make learning more interesting.
“I like inspiring kids to be artistically creative and theatrically creative,” said Stephenson.
Next year, Stephenson will be teaching at Hiawatha Elementary.