A 30-year-old Fairfax County schoolteacher and cheerleader sponsor was arrested yesterday and charged with embezzling $5,500 in checks students gave her to finance their cheerleadering activities, Fairfax police said.

Tawana T. Hinton of 1200 N. St. NW was taken into custody at Robinson Secondary School where she was a speech therapist and, until recently, sponsor of the cheerleading squads.

Police said that between Jan. 6 and June 30 Hinton received checks from parents of 15 cheerleaders for the purchase of uniforms and equipment and to pay for a trip to the King's Dominion amusement park and cheerleader camp tuition.

"Hinton received checks from the parents made out to her personally and then cashed them, converting the money to her own use," said police spokesman Warren R. Carmichael.

Some parents contacted school officials two weeks ago after they discovered summer camp tuitions and bills for other items had not been paid, said Robert C. Russell, the principal at Robinson. Russell said he contacted police after he was unable to reach Hinton.

Russell said Hinton had been a popular teacher. "The girls on the cheerleading squad were very, very fond of her," he said.

Russell said it was a violation of school policy for a teacher to ask parents to write checks to her personally, rather than to the school. The students and parents were reimbursed for their payments last week by a bonding company that insures school personnel, said Russell.

Hinton, a Fairfax school employe since 1978, was relieved of her cheerleading responsibilities three weeks ago because "we weren't communicating well," Russell said. School officials said they have not determined what administrative action, if any, will be taken against her.