AUBURN — Peter Robinson has had teachers smile and say they hope to hear from him in the morning.
When he calls, many students snap out of bed, elated.
Robinson is "Mister Snow Day."
He's the voice on the other end of the line when the phone rings at 5:30 a.m., and the unexpected star of a Facebook group called, "Peter Robinson wakes me on the cold, snowy mornings . . . and I love it." He's also the district's director of technology.
Robinson, 47, first came to Maine in 1988 from his home in Cheltenham, England, to volunteer at the Pine Tree Camp in Rome. It was the summer before senior year in college. He wanted to travel, to do something different.
"I had to look up where Maine was when I was assigned to that camp. I was expecting lots of woods," he said. "The funny thing was, friends of mine (who) drove me to the airport (said), 'You'll probably meet some girl and fall in love and get married.' No, that was not going to happen for quite some time."
But it did.
His future wife worked at the summer camp. (Dawn Willard-Robinson is now Pine Tree Camp's director.)
Robinson left school and moved to Maine the next year, getting married and finishing up his degree in the University of Maine system. His grandfather and great-grandfather had been teachers, but he hadn't planned on being one himself. He had wanted to join the British Army.
Yet Robinson had enjoyed working with kids. He was hired at Fairview Elementary School in 1993 to teach fifth and sixth grade. By 1999, he became a consulting teacher for technology, helping others use computers in the classroom. Around 2005, he moved into his current position.
It's unusual to be a technology director with a teaching background, not a technical one.
"I love to find ways that technology helps people learn," he said. "I tell people, 'invite me to do stuff in your classroom anytime,' because that's where I want to be."
An average week might see Robinson working with test score data, updating the district website, setting up iPads for incoming classrooms or visiting other districts to see how they're deploying technology.
"If you can't be open to new ideas, you're going to lose the edge," Robinson said.
He's also co-director of the drama club at the Auburn Middle School, a role that happened accidentally. Robinson remembers he'd been sitting in an office near the middle school library.
"I suddenly heard all these kids in the library doing bad British accents," he said. "I thought, 'OK, am I being mocked?'"
The students were practicing lines for a "Robin Hood" production. He offered to help, and help some more. The group performs two shows a year.
"I love it," Robinson said. "That was just icing on the cake to direct (his own son, Gareth) in 'The Tempest' last year."
It's Robinson's third year with the automated snow day phone calls. On stormy mornings, he hears from Superintendent Katy Grondin between 4:45 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. with news that school is off. He'll tell the school's phone software to call bus drivers first, followed by 4,000 or so staff and parents.
Robinson used to record the message live each time, but he ditched that.
"I don't need to be trying to be personable at 4:45 in the morning," he said.
On those snow days, someone will often leave a message in the Facebook group named after him.
Sometimes his wife has joined the fun. On a day when school wasn't cancelled, she'd write, "It's too bad I'm the only one Peter Robinson woke up this morning."
Know someone everyone knows? We're always looking for ideas. Contact staff writer Kathryn Skelton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 689-2844.