Support and encouragement

By Chase Jordan

June 16, 2014

With the school year coming to an end, Robin Marley cheerfully flipped through a folder filled with heart drawn artwork and messages of “I’ll miss you” and “I love you.”

“To me that just means the world,” Marley said about the notes students leave each year.

As a teacher’s assistant, Marley plays a major role at Midway Middle School as a Success Maker/Fast ForWord computer lab facilitator. Through the enrichment programs in the lab, Marley helps students with math and reading to improve their test scores.

“To me the important part of being a teacher assistant is to help the children academically, but to also be that support person and cheerleader behind them,” Marley said. “It’s hard for the teacher to do it all by herself.”

For her work, Marley was recently named Sampson County Schools’ Support Staff Person of the Year.

At the time, she didn’t think much of it because of the work of others in the building and throughout the district.

“To me everyone deserves to be recognized for the roles that they play here,” she said.

During the announcement, her students loudly cheered for her.

“It’s very humbling and I felt honored that they recognized the extra time that I put into these children,” Marley said.

She also serves the school as PTA president and drives a bus.Each week, Marley works with about 120 students and greets 55 kids during her bus route.

“I’m the first face they see every morning that’s school-related,” she said. “My mood and tone sets their mood and tone.”

Despite how she feels, she always tries to greet they youngsters with a cheerful “Good morning.”

Marley graduated from Lakewood High School and graduated from Sampson Community College. She’s married to her childhood sweetheart Keith. They have two boys, Kendall, a junior at Midway High Schools, and Kaison, a third-grader at Clement Elementary. Outside of school, she’s a member of Union Grove Baptist Church where she teaches adult Sunday school and is a member of the youth council.

Prior to Midway, she assisted exceptional children at Clement and Midway elementary schools.

The teaching assistant has been with Midway Middle for six years.

“I love being a part of the Midway Middle School family; they are undoubtedly the best group of people to work with every day,” she said. “Together we make a difference in the lives of the children. I am very thankful and honored that I was selected by my co-workers as the Support Staff Person of the Year at MMS.”

She enjoys the school’s period called Ninth Block. The 30-minute time frame allows students to work on character traits, learn about drug and alcohol prevention, exercise and catch up on homework.

A couple of years ago, Marley was asked to conduct a group to help girls with self-esteem and issues at school such as attendance and discipline.

She titled the program G.I.R.L.S., an acronym for Girls in Real Life Situations. Marley said it’s one of the most rewarding things she can do.

“I say what happens in Mrs. Robin’s room stays in Mrs. Robin’s room,” she said. “The girls learn to trust each other and open up when they get in here. They cheer each other on.”

Marley tries to stick to a curriculum with the program.

“But sometimes there are days when they just want to come in here and talk or just cry,” she said.

She’s often called “momma” by the girls in the program.

“Being a momma is the best job in the world and I was blessed with two of my own healthy children that I was able to birth,” she said. “I’ve also been blessed by God with these kids at school. If they care enough about me to use the word momma, then that means that they truly do love me. It may be the only time that they hear today, that ‘I love you too.’”

Marley wants the girls to know that she always cares and wants them to succeed.

“We talk a lot about what they want to do after they graduate,” she said. “My one thing is to remind them that they can be anything that they want to be. Believe in yourself.”

She’s also involved with a positive behavior system which awards students for good behavior, as well as the yearbook staff and social club committee.

“I’m busy, but I love it,” she said. “I wouldn’t trade any of it.”

Principal John Goode said Marley fills many roles at Midway Middle School.

“If she were to step out of any one of those roles, there would be a noticeable void,” Goode said.

Goode said the G.I.R.L.S. participants have several personal issues. But after working with Marley, they become better students and referrals to his office decrease.

He recalled a moment when the girls were sitting around a circle painting their nails.

“That kind of activity is building their confidence and teaching them at the same time,” he said. “They know it’s a safe environment and they can talk about anything that’s important to them. That highlights her willingness and dedication to help these kids. Everything she does, the kids are at the center. That’s just the way she is.”

For Marley, the accolade she received is an honor, just as it is to represent Midway Middle School and the support staff all over the county.

“It takes a village to raise a child,” she said referring to the African proverb.

Another one of her favorite sayings is posted on the wall of the lab.

“The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice,” she said. “If we raise a child up and we tell a child that they’re love and smart and that they can do anything that they want to do, they’ll go out of here with that confidence.”

Marley like to be that person always willing to provide it.

“It was an honor to represent all of the people behind the scenes who love these children,” Marley said.