Becky Robinson worked for years as a faculty member at Clinton High School, first as a special education teacher and later as a counselor.
Today, her son Brett has followed in her footsteps and is the principal of CHS.
“This is a calling,” he said. “Had I not been exposed to the school environment with my mom and been around influential leaders like (former superintendent) Dr. Phil Burchfield, I would not be doing this today.”
Becky and Mark Robinson moved to Clinton in 1986 from Hattiesburg and she began teaching at Clinton High School that fall. Brett started first grade that same year.
“We lived close to the old Clinton Park and he could walk to CHS in the afternoons,” she said.
In the early 1990s she enrolled in the graduate program at Mississippi College and earned a master’s degree in counseling.
“In 1996, the year the high school moved into the new building on Arrow Drive, I stayed on Lakeview and went to the CHS Career Complex to be a counselor,” she said. “That was Brett’s sophomore year of high school.”
In 1998, there was an opening for a counselor at Clinton High School. Then-principal Burchfield asked Becky about filling the position and she immediately said yes.
“It was the Tuesday after Labor Day that year,” she said. “Brett was a senior. I moved into my new office over the weekend.”
CHS counselors divide students alphabetically, and as the counselor working with students whose last names began with P-Z, “Brett was one of my students.”
One of the highlights of her career was serving on the National Merit selection committee.
“In 2006 I got a call from the National Merit Corporation,” she said. “They have a selection committee that selects National Merit Finalists all over the country, divided into regions. They invited me to serve on the committee for three years.”
As a committee member, she spent a week in Evanston, Ill. reviewing packets submitted by students in other regions. She finished her term on the National Merit committee in 2010, and retired that same year.
“It really brought home what I had been doing at Clinton High School, working with our students on their National Merit applications,” she said. “I loved my job.”
From student to teacher to school leader
As a high school student, Brett didn’t think much about a career in education. Instead, he said, he wanted to go to Mississippi State University, major in business and join a fraternity.
“When Brett was a senior in high school, Dr. Burchfield said Brett would be a ‘school guy,’” Becky said. “He told Brett to think about becoming a teacher. He went on to State and was majoring in business, but his sophomore year at MSU he called me and said he had changed his major to education.”
Burchfield did not just peg Brett as an educator in high school; he later became a mentor and “the most influential person in my career,” Brett said.
While at MSU, Brett got a part-time coaching job at Starkville Academy. During that same time frame, Burchfield moved to Starkville to become superintendent of the Starkville School District.
“We met for dinner every Wednesday night and discussed what it meant to be a positive educator and leader,” Brett said.
After MSU Brett began teaching in January 2004 at Clinton Alternative School.
“Growing up I had no idea about the needs of the kids at Clinton Alternative,” he said. “Being there as a teacher had a huge impact on me and the approach I took to my job. It showed me the challenges that some kids have. It was good for me to start there and I still apply what I learned there when I’m working with kids now.”
In August 2004 he moved to Clinton High School to teach biology, human anatomy & physiology and coach football. He earned a master’s degree in 2009 and moved into administration in 2012, as director of the CHS Career Complex.
He earned an educational specialist degree in 2014 and was named principal of Clinton High School in 2017.
“I’ve tried to take the good things from everyone I worked with,” he said. “I try to create a family-like atmosphere like J. Reeves did, make data-driven decisions like (former CHS principal) Dr. Eddie Peasant, but my overall approach to my job is mirrored after Dr. Burchfield.”
The next generation
One lesson Brett learned from Burchfield was to “treat every day like a job interview. You’re either applying for the job you have or the job you want.”
As a teacher, he volunteered for cafeteria duty, came to games and concerts, attended competitions. Now, he’s mentoring others and encouraging leadership qualities. He encourages students to consider becoming teachers.
“There’s no where else I’d want to be than Clinton,” he said. “The expectations I experienced as a student have stayed the same. Some of the faces, names, and the facilities have changed over the years but there has been no change in the high expectations in Clinton.”
The family tradition may continue with his own children.
“My 7-year-olds, Riley and Case, want to go to everything,” he said. “Taylor wants to be a teacher. All three of my children are heavily involved in what’s going on at CHS.”
Becky and Brett Robinson