Lawrence Toppman

Monroe teacher makes a national splash

Larry Robinson, a fixture for 30-plus years in Union County, has won the first national Inspiring Teacher Award from the Jimmys.
Larry Robinson, a fixture for 30-plus years in Union County, has won the first national Inspiring Teacher Award from the Jimmys. Courtesy of Union County Public Schools

Larry Robinson’s trophy shelf, already sagging from the weight of 30 years’ worth of awards, just got heavier.

The National High School Musical Theater Awards – better known as the Jimmys, because they honor producer James Nederlander – have given prizes to high school performers since 2009. But until this year, they’ve never honored teachers.

Robinson, a drama teacher at Central Academy of Technology and Arts in Monroe, shares the inaugural Inspiring Teacher Award with Brendan Jennings of John Burroughs High School in Burbank, Ca. Not coincidentally, their students won Best Actress and Best Actor at the 2016 Jimmys: Amina Faye represented Central, and Josh Strobl came from Burroughs. (Faye had won The Blumeys, the Charlotte-area version of these awards, to advance to the finals.)

Wells Fargo sponsors the teaching prize and will give it to Robinson at the Minskoff Theatre on June 26, the night of the 2017 Blumeys in New York.

Robinson’s on a roll: The North Carolina Theatre Conference gave him the Marian A. Smith Distinguished Career Award last year, after his students’ original play “BOAL” won Central its fourth state title in a decade. (One of those productions, “The Parchman Hour,” also won the 10-state Southeastern Theatre Conference title in 2014.)

He has taught for more than 30 years, though he didn’t join the staff at Central until 2006. (Before that, he had been Teacher of the Year at both Monroe Middle School and Monroe High School.) He has been honored as the outstanding theater teacher in the state by both the N.C. Theatre Arts Educator Association and UNC School of the Arts.

He’s a playwright, too. His “Illuminations” won the N.C. New Play Project at the Greensboro Playwright’s Forum in 2011.

Toppman: 704-358-5232

  Comments