Leadership Spotlight: Virginia Robinson
Virginia Robinson, Chief Education Officer at NOLA Education, grew up in historic Abbeville, Louisiana. She had a wonderful childhood in Abbeville, which she will forever call “home.” It was there that Virginia first decided that she wanted to become an educator. And beyond being an educator, she knew she wanted to be a positive, encouraging educator who inspired students toward reaching their full potential.
“I’ve always loved learning, and in a lot of ways, traditional in-class learning was natural for me,” said Virginia. “There was one subject, however, that I didn’t “click with” right away – chemistry. So one day, during a tutoring session in high school, my chemistry teacher said, ‘This just isn’t your thing. You should really focus on English and Social Studies.’ My goodness, that really stuck with me. That discouragement that comes when someone who is supposed to be supportive of your learning journey emphasizes an area where you’re struggling. I knew right then and there I would be a teacher that shows students they can thrive, not one that shines a light on the areas where they aren’t.”
After graduation, she attended Louisiana State University where she earned her Bachelor of Science in History, English and Religious Studies. She continued her education at the University of Louisiana, where she earned her teacher certification. Virginia began her career Lafayette, Louisiana as a Social Studies teacher. That’s actually where she experienced Star Academy’s programming for the first time. “When I saw the impact potential of Star Academy’s programming, the way it could change student lives, I was hooked,” Virginia told us. “It became clear to me that I needed to be a part of bringing Star Academy to students across the country who needed it.”
Today, you’ll find Virginia at the helm of NOLA’s curriculum and education services team. “My primary responsibility at NOLA is ensuring that the education team becomes the nation’s leading force in hands-on learning,” said Virginia. “We don’t want student futures or teacher success to be left to chance – it’s our job to help facilitate and further their positive momentum.”
GROWTH ROOTED IN OLD-FASHIONED, UNWAVERING SUPPORT
“On the heels of COVID-19, NOLA Education’s growth hit turbo speed, and we’re working hard to keep that growth going,” Virginia told us. “We’re looking forward to having a Star Academy site in every state across the nation, then, hopefully, every county and school system! We want to change as many student lives as possible!”
Incredible growth, however, isn’t always simple – it requires adaptive, flexible team members who never lose sight of NOLA’s vision.
“Scaling NOLA means changing, adding, pivoting, and shifting our mindset, sometimes on a daily basis.” Virginia explained. “You have to constantly push yourself to do what’s best for our partners and students across the nation, and always remember that delivering extraordinary customer service isn’t optional – it comes standard with every site, 24/7.”
Virginia knows how important support is on a personal level: she credits her husband for his undivided support when she chose to leave a secure position in education to take a chance on NOLA, a promising fledgling education innovation company. “He and our children have made sacrifices so I can be here. Without their consistent support, this wouldn’t have happened. My success – and in a way, even the success of NOLA – has been impacted by the support they’ve given me”
AUTHENTICALLY HERSELF AT NOLA
One of Virginia’s favorite things about NOLA’s employee culture is its commitment to appreciating people for who they are and empowering them to use their unique strengths to drive the entire team forward.
“I am 100% myself in this company, and am appreciated for who I am and the skills I bring to the table. In a lot of corporate or educational settings, you can’t say that, but at NOLA, it’s true,” said Virginia. “Our culture is also unique because it’s authentically driven by our core values. Our leader, John Alvendia, lives out the company’s core values daily and inspires each of us to do the same. The standard is high, but it encourages us to be our best selves for the team, partners, and students our lives touch. That’s truly impactful.”
Given NOLA’s current growth cycle, it’s looking for talent that aligns with its core values and is motivated to benefit the next generation.
“We love the part we play in changing student lives, and enriching the classrooms and practices of our partners,” Virginia said. “If you’re someone who loves people, wants to make a difference, and be a part of something BIG – NOLA may be a good fit for you. And if you’re lucky enough to climb aboard, all I can say is it’s going to be a fun ride, so climb in, hold on, and enjoy!”
INSPIRED BY THOSE SHE LOVES
When we asked Virginia if there was anyone else she’d like to thank for the success she experiences today – apart from her beloved husband and children – Virginia did not hesitate: Her father and grandfather.
“My father and grandfather have inspired and encouraged me my entire life,” Virginia told us. “They were entrepreneurs, respected leaders in their fields, and a gauge many others measure themselves by. They’ve always been honest with me, guided me, and taught me to be bold in my decisions. They demonstrated daily how to have fun, work hard, and love well – I am forever blessed to have had their example.”
Virginia keeps another piece of advice she received from her dad close to her heart: “There is only one thing that is uniquely yours. It’s not tangible, but it is something that can be damaged very quickly. It’s something that you must take full ownership of: your reputation.”
This solid piece of advice is something that Virginia remembers and strives to apply corporately as well. “What we’re building here at NOLA has the potential to change lives,” said Virginia. “We want to make sure that that impact and the dedication of our team to bring that potential to life, while supporting our partners without fail, become foundational elements of NOLA’s reputation.”