Robbins herself had some difficult times growing up. Her family moved from Florida to Stamford, Connecticut, when she was in second grade and to nearby Greenwich a few years later. She had difficulty making friends at Greenwich High, where Jewish students are rare, as are girls who stand five feet eleven. She stayed close to her younger sister, Alyson, now a social justice attorney in Ann Arbor. She's not entirely sure she was excluded, but sometimes that's how it felt to the shy teen: "I was the kid who would feel people weren't letting me play, even if I had never asked."
Now Robbins draws out the children she teaches. She's "simultaneously disarming and incredibly confident," says Joe Malcoun, who serves with her on the 826 board and whose twins are in her Allen Creek class. Malcoun adds that his children change the name of every teacher character in books they read to "Mrs. Wobbins."
Robbins verbalizes what children are thinking. "You were really hoping we could go outside, but now it's raining," she might say, simultaneously helping tots understand themselves, know they are understood, and develop the vocabulary needed to express their feelings. "Teaching is making a community where everybody feels free to take risks and can learn to be their best," she says.