Star teacher: Elementary school principal makes students’ health, safety top priority

Writer: Joey Pellegrino
Bonita Springs Elementary Principal Robert Cooper. Credit: WINK News

Star teacher Robert Cooper is dealing with a pandemic for the first time, like most of us. But he’s also leading his school through it. From principal to health safety officer, he’s tackling this challenge in an outstanding way.

“You’re only as strong as the people around you as a principal,” Cooper said. “It’s not just me, it’s the team that we have here at our school. I’m just one person on the team.”

Cooper is the principal of Bonita Springs Elementary School. In all his years in the education system, he never thought he would have to police health safety.

“In a million years, I never thought I would walk around checking hand sanitizer dispensers during the day,” Cooper said. “We work really well together to make sure our kids are safe and they’re healthy. We implemented the one-way hallways and the sanitation stations.”

That’s just a small part of Cooper’s contribution to the students of Bonita Elementary. He never left his school during the pandemic, but his duties were very different than normal, like helping with the school’s mobile food pantry.

“When they come in at 4 o’clock, I was able to direct traffic through the street, and it gave me a chance to connect with the kids who some of our teachers lost contact with,” Cooper said. “We’ve got people coming through that pantry line that you never thought you’d see coming through that in our community.”

And the students’ safety while learning is paramount in his eyes.

“As educators, it’s what we do: We’re here for the kids first, they’re the most important things to us, their safety trumps everything,” Cooper said. “If we can’t keep them safe, they’re not in a position to learn.”

But what is closest to his heart is getting the students in school to learn. Cooper says it’s vital for the children’s future.

“I’ve been working very hard with our team to encourage parents to send their students back to school,” Cooper said. “The gap is getting wider and wider and wider since distance learning. Now I’m seeing a huge closing of the gap in our math and our reading scores. They are now coming back and getting A’s and B’s. It’s made a very big difference at our school.”

If you would like to nominate a star teacher, visit WINK News anchor Sabrina Katz’s Facebook page.

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