Randy Lyon and Jeremy Robinson joined Teach For America Greater Chicago-Northwest Indiana within a year of one another. Learn how they were brought together by a passion for education, and how their friendship has grown over 15 years.
April 8, 2019
In 2006, Jeremy Robinson (Greater Chicago-Northwest Indiana, ’04) was invited to speak at the home of Randy Lyon. Randy, the Vice-Chairman of Robert W. Baird & Co, was a new supporter of Teach For America, but was already committed to educating his network on the organization’s impact. When it was Jeremy’s turn to speak, he shared his personal story and reasons for joining the organization with Randy’s friends and colleagues.
Jeremy grew up the son of a teacher, and had never imagined the career for himself. “I watched the day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month routine of a teacher, and though I found it to be inspiring and noble, it also overwhelmed me,” Jeremy says. A family crisis resulted in Jeremy’s mother suddenly being thrust into the position of raising her five children alone. They struggled to get by on her teacher’s salary, at one point living in the Salvation Army. He wanted more stability for his own life. But in college he read Wendy Kopp’s book One Day, All Children, and everything changed. “The mission of eliminating educational inequity sent a thunderbolt through me,” Jeremy says.
“Jeremy’s story really hit home for me,” Randy says, reflecting on that evening. “I understood the tug that he would have had to capitalize on this great education and become a lawyer, doctor or businessman, but his zeal and passion for education came through in his remarks. He became one of the faces of Teach For America, and I know others in the room felt the same way.”
The event at Randy’s home was not just powerful for Randy, Jeremy left inspired as well. “The event made me realize Teach For America is part of a dynamic, complex, inter-dependent educational landscape, and that there are a lot of people that the classroom teacher is unaware of cheering them on. I felt that at Randy’s house,” he says.
“The event made me realize Teach For America is part of a dynamic, complex, inter-dependent educational landscape.”
In the years to come, Randy and Jeremy continued to stay in touch, and soon a real friendship was born. Jeremy left Chicago to become a Rhodes Scholar after his time in the corps, and when he returned Randy and his wife Evie were some of the first visitors to his classroom on the near West Side. Jeremy has stayed at the school for over ten years. “I love the fact that he is pursuing the course of master teacher. It’s pretty special, staying in the classroom and just doing it really well,” Randy says.
Over the course of 15 years, both Randy and Jeremy have learned a great deal from one another. “I’ve learned about the power of giving back, and modeling through your actions what it means to look out for other people. Randy asks sincere and authentic questions about how I’m doing, and his willingness to offer his time and attention to other people is inspiring,” Jeremy says. Randy has continued to be energized by Jeremy’s classroom. “Prior to Teach For America, I would have said everyone has a certain God-given level of ability, but teachers like Jeremy have shown me that all students can learn and show academic growth,” he says.
Looking ahead, both know that to continue to see real progress in our schools, there need to be more friendships like their own. “When we silo ourselves away and try to do the work in isolation we won’t be able to reach the sort of mountaintops we’re aiming for,” Jeremy says. “And that’s one of the reasons I continue to be inspired by Randy – he reminds me of that. Teach For America has grown stronger through the relationships it’s built with others.”