NoNonsense Educator Named DC Public Schools 2018 Teacher of the Year

first_imgMore than half of Tumeka Coleman’s 40 students came into her third grade English Language Arts classroom in September performing below their grade level. “When they come to me, I have to teach them where they are and then fast-forward them to where they need to be,” Coleman told the AFRO. “But sometimes it’s a struggle—a lot of them don’t know sight words, they don’t know how to write sentences, many don’t even know how to read.”Tumeka Coleman, D.C. Public Schools 2018 Teacher of the Year (AFRO Photo/Christina Sturdivant-Sani)For her work, Coleman was named the D.C. Public Schools 2018 Teacher of the Year. She is an educator at Walker-Jones Education Campus, a pre-kindergarten through 8th grade school in Northwest D.C. While Walker-Jones students achieve gains of about three percent each year on their annual PARCC exams, the overall rankings at the school are significantly low. During the 2016-2017 school year, only 10 percent of students met expectations for the English Language Arts and Literacy portion of the exam, and just one percent of students exceeded expectations. On a Tuesday morning in mid-January, Coleman spent much of her time split between students. She’s found that the best way to cater to her youth is working with them in small groups and individually, based on their needs. “I’m drill sergeant in here, we do not play—we don’t have time to,” said Coleman, who said she was inspired to become a teacher by her mother while growing up in North Carolina. “I have expectations and I have things that I need to make sure they are successful with.” She also promotes honest conversations. “I let them know ‘this is why you’re in this group, this is what we’re working on, and this is how we move forward.’” Coleman has been an educator for 17 years, the last six with DCPS and the last three at Walker-Jones. She also serves as a team lead for nine teachers across grades three through five. “I’ve always been a no-nonsense teacher—I don’t take excuses from my students or my team,” she said. “There are going to be problems that are going to present themselves but we have to come up with realistic solutions to solve them.” Every day is a test day for students in Coleman’s classroom. “I always want to see what growth we’ve made,” she said. But each day is also an opportunity to nurture students, who write down and share how they would like to be treated every morning. They also express their feelings about the previous day and how things could have gone better. “We get to know them on a deeper level, an emotional level—it’s all about them being happy in the classroom,” said Coleman, who also gets insight from parents into students’ lives outside of school walls. Four months into the school year, more than half of Coleman’s students are now reading on a third grade level. And she expects at least 75 percent of them to be prepared for fourth grade by the end of the year. “I enjoy seeing the kids’ light bulbs go off when they’re actually getting it—I’m very passionate about what I do,” she said. “And I like for the students to see that despite their circumstances, they can be successful.”last_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *