With This Missouri Teacher, The Lesson Is Live

Mar 11, 2015
Originally published on March 10, 2015 10:38 pm

Each weekday morning, promptly at 7:20 a.m., Robyn King's students go live.

"Are we ready?" King asked on a recent Monday, holding up a single finger pointed at two wide-eyed students sitting at a desk in front of a tripod-mounted iPad. "OK, here we go."

King teaches Journalism and Broadcast Media at Truman High School in Independence, Mo. Besides writing stories for the school's online newspaper and making the annual yearbook, her students produce the school's live daily announcements, broadcast over the Internet.

"Even though it's live, I tell them they have to be prepared" she says. "You can't just sit down and expect to sound good."

King should know — every Saturday and Sunday, she works as a disc jockey on Hot 103 Jamz, a hip-hop radio station in nearby Kansas City. So while her students can hear her in class during the week, cajoling them to get to work and lecturing them on how to have good on-camera presence, they can also listen to her every weekend afternoon as she plays the latest hits from Bruno Mars and Kendrick Lamar.

"It's the perfect marriage," King says. "I'm teaching my students to do what I'm doing. Have your own voice and personality: This is what I teach."

On the weekend, King sits behind a blinking operations board in the station's main studio. A thumping bass beat bubbles out softly from a pair of headphones around her neck.

On air, she's known as Robyn Knight, a result of her working the night shift when she started at the station in 2002. Though all the music is pre-programmed, she'll break in every 10 minutes or so to give weather updates, promote local businesses, and vamp about other topics she thinks might interest her audience.

"A local boy makes good, ya'll! Check this out on our Facebook page," she says, referring to a story about a Kansas City actor who appears in the movie Selma.

She says she thinks of her students a lot when she is on air.

"My students are the audience for this station," she says. "Often I hear about trends from them at school and will talk about them on-air here."

Recently, she says, her students were abuzz about the rapper Big Sean's newest release, and she made sure to mention it in her next shift. She says she'll also have students tweet the station while she's on the air.

"This girl the other day posted, 'Just listening to my teacher on a Saturday!' " she says. "That feels good."

King says she's never had trouble expressing herself — she was in debate and speech classes in high school and was also the sports editor for the school's newspaper.

"My journalism adviser in high school was a huge influence on me," she says. "She had worked in TV before she became a teacher, and I saw her as someone that I could really trust because she had been in the business."

King says she hopes to be a similar role model for her students.

"I want them to have the same feeling of satisfaction and happiness I have when I'm on air. I want them to have what I've had," she says, as she pulls on her headphones and begins to bob her head to the music.

A few short seconds later, the music fades and Robyn Knight goes live.

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