This week’s feature for Teacher of the Year is Amy Wilken of Gladeville Middle School.
Wilken teaches SEEK at Gladeville Middle, which is a gifted program to provide further enrichment for students in grades 6-8.
As this is the inaugural year for Gladeville Middle School, Wilken has the chance to build the school’s SEEK program for future students and to establish the school culture.
“Exciting doesn’t even seem to be the appropriate word because it’s bigger than that,” she said. “It’s really enjoyable to work with these colleagues who are coming here with one goal and that is to create the best middle school in the county.”
Wilken attended Rend Lake College in Illinois and Southeast Missouri State University on various academic and sports scholarships. She received her degree in secondary education with an emphasis on history. She earned her master’s from Lipscomb University in administration and supervision.
Wilken has grown up loving history her whole life, which she credits to her father. She also had a history teacher in high school that left an impression with the way he would tell a story.
“I love learning about the past and understanding who we are and why we are and how we got to where we are,” she said.
Aside from her career teaching history, she has coached many sports including basketball, softball, track and soccer and has also directed school plays. Her varied interests and expertise could be traced back to her childhood.
“Growing up, my parents exposed me to all kinds of things and I think that’s one thing that I can do really well with and that’s have a connection with every student in the classroom,” she said. “Whether it’s to hunting deer, to listening ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ and going to the Broadway play, I have this wide spectrum to connect my life with their life.”
This connection is important, she said, because once the student realizes that their teacher cares, the classroom becomes more like a family. It also allows her to relate their interests with a project they are working on.
“I think we have a culture of a really rigorous program,” she said. “I think the students even know we have high expectations here and they’re meeting them.”
Wilken said there were no words to describe what it was like being chosen as Gladeville Middle’s first Teacher of the Year.
“It was a very humbling experience, that’s for sure,” she said. “Because I am in a school full of teachers who could easily be Teacher of the Year every single year they are teaching. For them to choose me makes me very special and makes me feel that the days that are hard are all worth it.”
She is grateful for the community support of Gladeville Middle, and especially for the support of her colleagues and administration.
“I have the best staff and colleagues that I work with,” said Wilken. “They just make you want to work even harder and do even more.”