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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

General Ed instructor born to inspire and be inspired

December 3, 2013
From a young age, Robin has decided to devote her life to helping people.

One of Robin McCracken’s favorite quotes is by Erin Gruwell from the movie, Freedom Writers: “When I’m helping these kids make sense of their life, everything about my life makes sense to me.” As a General Education instructor for the Modesto campus, Robin is quite attuned to the symbiotic nature of the learning process.

Robin knew from a very early age that she had a gift. It was her mother, Alycia, who helped her to bring that inspired gift of teaching forward.

Growing up, Robin’s older brother had special needs during a time when public education did not have the accommodations it has today. Robin’s mother made it Robin’s responsibility to help teach him.

“I quickly learned that if he didn’t understand something, I was the one who failed, not him,” she says.

So began a lifelong commitment, a compulsion really, to help others find their way to their own understanding, as well as their passion for learning. Having spent many years as a teacher, educational counselor, and administrator, her mission has always been clear.

“I want to inspire, motivate those who struggle,” says McCracken, “whether it is my students or other teachers who are trying to become better at what they are doing.”

It is a testament to Robin’s own passion for teaching and the success with which she expresses it that students on the Modesto campus have requested many times that she speak at their graduation ceremonies. It is an honor that Robin takes wholly to heart.

“When I speak, I spend a great deal of time preparing my mind and my heart for the journey,” she says. “I consider it a privilege and an honor that I don’t enter into lightly.”

The results of Robin’s efforts do not go unnoticed. “Robin’s popularity amongst the students can be measured by the roaring applause she receives as she takes the podium at the commencement ceremony,” says Sean Hancock, Campus Director.

“It’s crazy, isn’t it,” says Robin, who laughs that, “It is probably more about my name.” “You know, ‘What’s crackin’, McCracken?’”

In the classroom Robin projects a thoughtful balance of speaking and listening that promotes the greatest opportunity for clear communication and learning to take place. That skill does not come without mindful discipline and practice. Whether addressing a classroom, an auditorium of graduates or an individual, she places great importance on the message, exchange and outcome. Her students thrive in this environment.

Robin’s goal in the classroom is to help her students to “see their own worth, to remain teachable for the rest of their lives and to feel empowered as the result of gaining knowledge,” she says. “I want them to hear my heart.”

That does not mean that their learning experience has to be all work and no play.

“I love to make learning fun,” says McCracken, “because I don’t want to be bored teaching it!”

One of her greatest rewards is to hear from graduates she has helped to prepare for life after SJVC. The cards, emails and visits from students she taught, guided and inspired, are steady.

“When a graduate shares that, because of my influence, they want to go on and become a teacher or counselor, it touches me,” says Robin. “But, teaching is not a one-way street,” she emphasizes. “I am truly the learner.”

Robin’s learning continues as she is currently completing a Doctorate in Educational Administrative Leadership. Her own children, Heath, Alyssa and Brandon, along with her mother, are her greatest sources of motivation and inspiration.

An admitted ‘over thinker’, Robin replenishes her spirit by doing just that – exquisite contemplation. “I always have a quiet reflection on my actions and speech,” she offers. A walk in the woods, with a preferred mountain backdrop, is where she finds those moments that refill her spirit and regenerate her passion.

It is a good bet that in those moments she tells herself that same truth she often presses upon her students: “Rise up and take your place; it is time.