Teacher, urban educator, researcher, and innovator in education

Dr. Robert W. Simmons

Currently serving as the Vice President of State Operations, Michigan & Senior Advisor on Innovation for Reading Partners (, Robert Simmons is the former Chief of Innovation and Research for the District of Columbia Public Schools, the founding director of the Center for Innovation in Urban Education, and a tenured professor of urban education, and associated faculty member in African and African American Studies program at Loyola University Maryland. A former middle school science teacher in the Detroit Public Schools, his teaching & administrative career in Detroit, Minnesota, & the Dominican Republic, included being nominated twice as the Walt Disney National Teacher of the Year and once for the Whitney and Elizabeth MacMillan Foundation Outstanding Educator Award. A former college football player, Robert has been part of a team of educators who started a STEM focused middle school for boys, a board member at one of the few public Montessori schools in an urban community, and the founder of a mentoring program for African American boys in Minnesota. Robert has been a fellow with the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship Foundation where he conducted environmental research in the rainforest of Costa Rica, and participated in the Japan Fulbright Memorial Fund. The author of over 30 publications, including articles in the Village Celebration, and co-edited book, Talking About Race: Alleviating the Fear (Stylus Publishing, 2013), his research focuses on the experiences of African American boys in public and Catholic schools, science education in urban schools, African American male teachers, urban education, and the role of race in understanding the social context of schooling. Robert's next book, Interrupting the School to Prison Pipeline: African American Males as Critical Scholars and Intellectuals, is part autobiographical reflecting on his fathers' incarceration while offering insights into the educational experiences of African American males


The author and evaluator of over $1.5 million in grants, including serving as a co-PI on an NIH funded project designed to support the development of virtual science labs for K-12 students and teachers, Robert has delivered workshops and lectures throughout the United States and Europe on his research. Robert is a renowned motivational speaker who openly shares his life experiences in Detroit during the height of the crack cocaine epidemic, the mental incarceration he experienced for much of his life due to the physical incarceration of his father, and the significant challenges he faced leaving his childhood home in a neighborhood where drugs and drug dealers were the norm to being one of the few African American students at an elite Jesuit high school.

Teaching Ferguson in the Classroom

Teaching Ferguson in the Classroom

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