Mrs. Victory, Kinder Superhero
Welcome back to our monthly feature of moms who have faced the task of pandemic parenting while also continuing their work in our community. Research has shown that women have suffered greater economic and personal fallout from the pandemic, losing jobs or having to work while also caring for children.
Robin Victory is one of the rare teachers in Santa Cruz County who shepherded three of her own children through the school where she teaches.
“I wanted to be here at Rio del Mar Elementary with my kids,” she explains. “I live in the community and I got [the job teaching kindergarten] when my oldest was in fourth grade. It was so much fun! My son would come and get gummy bears, my oldest would come with her friends and help.”
Living in the community, her job often overlaps with her private life when students and graduates see her at the grocery store or the gym. She describes them as tickled by the experience, and occasionally floored—especially at Halloween.
“It’s the utter shock of seeing their teacher at her house. I remember this one kid Martin—I open the door and he just absolutely did not know what to think!”
Mrs. Victory’s warmth and enthusiasm draws children in immediately.
“She is nice and smiles lots, and she lets us do fun things in free play,” explains Laura Mottram’s children.
Laura, as a parent, has been amazed at one thing that Robin hasn’t taught her children: fear. “Our kids have no idea that their entry into school life has been so unusual. All the crazy that COVID has brought to school, like online learning and masks, seems like the normal way to start kinder.”
Robin was nominated by Growing Up’s editor Brad Kava, who as a first-time parent was amazed at the outsize influence a kinder teacher can have. “I realized she is one of the most important people in my five-year-old’s life. Every day he recounts what he learned and teaches it to me, acting it out as if he were her.”
Although parents give Robin high marks for her coping skills during distance learning, she says that she’ll follow any other restriction just to keep kids in the classroom. She explains that learning through screens has clear drawbacks for younger kids.
“Kindergarten is such an important part of learning to interact with others,” she explains. “They didn’t know how to get along with each other!”
Last year, her own children did their distance learning from home with their father while Robin taught via screen from her empty classroom. It was a lonely way to teach, she said, and she depended on parents and siblings to support her students at home.
She has some empathy for the students she passed on to the first-grade teachers, who are “picking up the pieces.” But she says that things are going extremely well this year, and the students even reminded her when she forgot to put on her own mask before reentering the school after recess. “They’re my little teachers!”
Although most things are back to normal, there is one big difference for Mrs. Victory: Robin’s youngest graduated from Rio during distance learning, so she’s at school for the first time in years without one of her own. But she powers on, bringing energy and enthusiasm for a job that she “loveloveloves!”
*Photo by Kevin Painchaud