Spotlight: Tasha Wilson (AR '18)January 31, 2019
Tasha Wilson (AR ’18) has a gift for classroom management. Her secret to keeping her second-graders in line: high expectations, structure, consistency and respect. Tasha won Arkansas’ 2018-19 Milken Educator Award at Kingsland Elementary in Cleveland County Schools on November 30, 2018.
Milken Family Foundation: You’re known as a master of classroom management. What’s the secret to keeping second-graders engaged and on task?
Tasha Wilson: I think that high expectations, structure and consistency, good rapport, respect (on both ends), and a positive attitude all play major roles in maintaining good classroom management. The children know from day one what I expect. Granted, it may take a week for them to get into a normal routine, but once the routine is down it is smooth sailing. I also want the children to know that it’s okay to make a mistake. I tell them that everyone makes mistakes, even me. When you make a mistake, you have to fix it and try to do better the next time.
I always have something to keep students engaged. It may be reading the assigned books for the week or finishing up class assignments. They can get on their computers for Istation or ABCya!, or build with blocks quietly at their desks if they have completed everything. There are times when we let loose in the classroom, but only when it’s appropriate. I laugh and joke with the children and treat them like my own. I like to reward them when they follow rules and complete assignments, but there are consequences when rules are broken. The rules and consequences are the same for everyone.
MFF: What do you like about teaching elementary students?
Tasha: I love that elementary-aged children still love to learn new things. They are often amazed when they grasp a concept they thought would be hard or was something only older children could learn. I chose elementary school because children need a good solid foundation in their early school years. I felt as though I could provide the beginning structure needed for them to be successful throughout their school careers.
MFF: How do you involve parents in your classroom and make them partners in their children’s learning?
Tasha: I send home a weekly newsletter. I also report on my students’ behavior daily, good or otherwise. I let parents know at the beginning of the year that there are some pretty tough skills taught in second grade. Students will have more challenging work and things won’t be the same as the previous year. I make positive phone calls to parents, just to let them know that their child is doing well or is having a good day. Parents are free to call me at any time to discuss their child’s academics or behavior.
MFF: How did you feel at your Milken Educator Award notification?
Tasha: I was in total shock! We were told we were going to have an assembly to recognize being chosen as a Blue Ribbon School. We were all really excited because television crews, dignitaries from our state and members of the community would be there to help us celebrate this wonderful award. When Ms. Jane [Foley, senior vice president of the Milken Educator Awards] began speaking, we teachers were all looking at each other and wondering what was going on.
When my name was called I almost fainted! I had to hold on to one of my coworkers to keep from going down. I was totally surprised, because I come to work to educate children in a safe and fun environment and I don’t look for anything in return other than the success of my students. I was so humbled by the Milken Award and the recognition. I truly thank God for giving me the gift and calling to be a teacher.
MFF: How did your students respond to your Milken Award?
Tasha: All the students were really excited and proud of me. They gave me hugs and high fives and said, “Way to go, Mrs. Tasha!” They were excited about the money as well, telling me, “Mrs. Tasha, you are rich!” The assembly was on a Friday, so Monday we were back to business as usual in the classroom. My kiddos are awesome.
MFF: What made you decide to teach?
Tasha: From as far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a teacher. When asked as a child, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” my answer was always, “A teacher.” I loved learning new things and how I felt when I made the honor roll or received an award for doing something at school. Also, when I was growing up, children looked up to teachers and wanted to be like them when they grew up. I wanted to be a positive influence in a child’s life. Teaching was the only profession I ever wanted to pursue.
MFF: Who are your role models as an educator?
Tasha: My favorite elementary teacher was Mrs. Kim Wells. She was kind and made learning fun. She always went the extra mile to show she cared for her students. My favorite high school teachers were Ms. Kay Grant and Ms. Beth Thurman. Ms. Grant was a soft-spoken lady and was very knowledgeable about the subject she taught (language). She had rules and made sure we followed them, but she was also very personable. Ms. Thurman, my high school English teacher, used a lot of songs and rhyme. I still use some of her rhymes in my classroom! She was very humorous and a stickler for following the rules. She made sure that she made the concepts she was teaching relevant to us.
MFF: What memories stand out from your first year of teaching?
Tasha: My first year was not too bad. Mr. Durey, my principal, was awesome! I had a great mentor teacher, Wendy James. She was always there to walk me through any questions or concerns I had with the children or subject matter.
There was an incident that happened my first year that made me want to make sure my students always knew I was there for them. There was a child in my kindergarten classroom who lost his mother to domestic violence. This broke my heart. I had to learn not to break down with sadness in front of my students. I had to be strong for them and answer any questions they had to the best of my ability. After the incident, the student left the school. I often wonder about him.
MFF: How do you think you’ll use your $25,000?
Tasha: I plan to use some of it to help with my son’s college expenses in a couple of years. I would like to take my family on a nice vacation. I also plan to have a “Fun Day” at my school for all of the students at Kingsland Elementary.
MFF: How do you define “success” for yourself and for your students?
Tasha: Success for me is when I see that light bulb turn on when a child finally grasps a concept. It is when I get an autistic student to spell “October” for the first time, after being nonverbal most of the year. When I hear my students use a vocabulary word at the end of the year that we learned at the beginning. Success for me is having a student say, “Mrs. Tasha was one of my favorite teachers.” It is also hearing a parent say, “I am so glad my child had you for a teacher.” Hearing my fifth-grade son, Galvin Wilson Jr., say, “You are an awesome teacher—even without the money!”
For my students, success is making their best grade on a test, whether it is an A,B, or C. Success for my students is trying their best and giving 100% all the time, whatever they are doing.
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