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Black History Month
2021 Honoree

Back to Circle of Excellence
Ishmael Robinson

Ishmael Robinson

K-12 Mathematics Supervisor

Saint Paul Public Schools


Where are you from?

I was a Chapter 220 student.  This meant I was bussed from my neighborhood to suburban schools.  Suburbs were a different world from my home in Milwaukee’s 53206 zip code.  The 53206 zip code is the most incarcerated zip code in the world.  62% of Black men there are or have been incarcerated.  The impact of the racial and financial inequities I experienced have influenced my life personally and professionally.



Please describe an experience (or 2) that helped you discover/cultivate your interest in mathematics.

As a former struggler but one who persevered, I was always drawn to mathematics.  I liked the straightforwardness of it.  If I knew the formula or the procedure, I knew I could get the answer.  I also received a lot of positive attention and besides athletics, I did not receive a great deal of positive feedback in my school experience.  


As I matured, I realized mathematics wasn’t always straightforward.  There was room for creativity and the more creative it was the more excited I became.  I was well into my career when I really understood that more students could learn math deeply if they understood what it was.  I realized I would have been even more successful if I had seen the creativity in math.  I wanted to share this with teachers and learners.


What is/are your most proud accomplishment(s) as a K-12 educator?

I am proud of many things I have accomplished as a K-12 educator.  What quickly comes to mind includes: 

-Data driven decisions

-Teachers writing curriculum

-Closing the achievement gap in Eden Prairie, Minnesota

-Highest proficiency increases in Saint Paul’s east side (highest poverty rates, highest EL -levels, most struggling in the district) schools

-Bringing more teachers into mathematics classrooms, including EL and SpEd

-Building and maintaining relationships with former students, educators, and administrators

-Using a task, question, and evidence based approach

-Recognition at a national level for movement toward financial literacy


Describe what you do in the classroom to inspire your students.

-Using topics of culturally relevance

-Using themes of social justice

-Bringing financial literacy

-Being a role model

-Provide Motivation

-Provide Wisdom


What is/are your most proud accomplishment(s) in regards to your personal life?

-Making 6 figures after being surrounded by poverty

-Being a first generation college student

-Helping other succeed

-Coaching people in sports and life

-Helping my sons become secure in their racial identity

-Making my parents proud


Please share some words of wisdom/inspiration.

At the end of the day be YOU!!!