Last year was math teacher Tameka Wilson’s first year at Southside Middle School in Muncie, and she certainly made her mark. Muncie Community Schools named her Teacher of the Year for Southside and Secondary Teacher of the Year for the entire district.

Wilson, who is originally from Sumter, South Carolina, earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina, in 2007.

She taught for a few years in her home state before moving to Indiana to earn her MAE in Educational Administration from Teachers College. After graduating in 2012, she stayed in-state, working at a charter school in Indianapolis and one in Fort Wayne before returning to Muncie.

She spoke to the Teachers College Alumni newsletter about the partnership between Muncie Community Schools and Ball State and about her passion for teaching.

When did you see the Ball State partnership really working?

 We had an option to participate in a book study titled “The Tough Kid.” We had a Ball State representative come in, and it gave us new ways to look at classroom management.

We always have that one tough kid and it can be hard to figure out how to connect with that child. So we were assigned a chapter each week, and we met every Wednesday. We talked about things we tried, what worked, what didn’t work.

Did you have these professional development opportunities at other schools?

 A lot of times you have to seek it on your own through outside organizations. With Ball State, we receive information all the time about opportunities. There are grant writing programs. There is the Innovation Summit this summer.

With Ball State, they are actually asking us, What do you need as an educator?

A lot of times we get left out of those decisions. I think it’s exciting that Ball State is asking what we need. Our voice is important. We’re in the classroom. We know what the kids need.

What do the kids think of all this?

The kids are also able to see that Ball State isn’t just a town unto its self. They get excited. We have Ball State athletes helping at our city track meet and showing up at practices. We had Ball State students here at Southside. It brings everyone together.

There are a lot of colleges in a lot of cities, and not all of them have that relationship.

How did it feel to earn these awards in your first year with the district?

It felt amazing. I am a strong believer in building relationships with students. Every Friday I connect with them and tell them to have a good, safe weekend. We either do a handshake or we do a hug. Also, they know I care about them. Once they feel safe and feel that love, they buy in. And that makes me excited about teaching.

Learning is fun and we have fun in our classroom.

I’m also at every sports game if I can be there. And I have a shirt for every team we have. I’m their cheerleader. I’m always there for them. If they have games or plays or band concerts, I’m there. Sometimes, if they come into the classroom and they’re having a bad day, I embrace those days and I tell them we have to move on.

Teaching is more than a job. I am called to be a teacher.

Why did you want to be a teacher?

I was a military child. I moved around a lot. When you move around a lot, sometimes teachers don’t know what to do with you. So, I became that kid who would talk too much — what people would see as a behavioral issue.

One day in sixth grade I decided I wanted to be a teacher so that I could help every kid. I don’t recall until high school having one teacher who embraced me as a new student. I wanted to be a teacher and I wanted to be different.

We all just want to have a voice, and I make sure that each kid has a voice in my classroom.