My name is Ukyah Wilburn, and I teach 5th grade in Collinsville, Illinois. I am entering my 10th year of teaching this August 2022. I have always wanted to be a teacher. However, I wasn’t always a good student. I have had some pretty incredible teachers over the years, but my passion for teaching comes from wanting to assist the “not-so-good students” and being able to see their true potential.
I grew up in Decatur, Illinois. I went to a Magnet School from Kindergarten through the 8th grade. After high school, I attended Southern Illinois University @ Edwardsville and received three degrees in a span of 12 years. First was my Elementary Education degree. Then I earned a Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction. I finished schooling in 2019, receiving a Master’s in Education Administration. I have been a student all my life, which I think helps me relate to the students I teach in my classroom.
I have always been a person that wants to share what I know. If I hear a good joke, I can’t wait to make someone else laugh. If I learn something that makes life easier, I share it with everyone I feel could benefit. That translates well in the classroom. My goal is to share my knowledge and experiences with my students so that they can have better, easier lives than I have had. In 33 years, I have had cancer twice. Once when I was 12 and again in 2020.
The cancer I experienced in my youth was a rare disease developed from the trauma of falling off my bike, and then I got breast cancer later in life. I didn’t grow up with much and have struggled to build a life for myself. I realize that students have similar experiences, and I feel like it is my job to show them that if they persevere, they can build the lives they choose. I have been told I am a good teacher because I don’t just teach the main subjects. I constantly discuss life lessons with my students, who really love it.
Teaching 5th grade has been a dream. I thought I wanted to be a kindergarten teacher, and God allowed me to experience that in my first year out of college. I did a year-long maternity leave, and I really loved it. But then I got a classroom teaching 4th grade, and their independence and understanding level was much more fun. That following year I was bumped up to 5th grade, and I loved every moment. Well, not every moment, these past few years have been hard, but the age is perfect for me.
My school is an intermediate school, so students come from their 4th-grade classrooms all over the district and are the “newbies” in my building. They’re so nervous on the first day, but they get very comfortable by September. At this age, they are learning about who they are and how friendships and relationships work. I’m able to help them find their confidence not only in their education but also within themselves. Since COVID, this has become increasingly difficult but also important. While I am ready to move into an administrative role, the time I spend helping to build students' confidence means so much to me.
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