When Winston-Salem Prep opened in 2004, Beatrice Wilkerson and her parents decided that it was the right school for her, and she started there as a ninth-grader.
“I knew the courses I would be offered would put me on the right path to go to college,” Wilkerson said.
After she graduated in 2008, she headed to N.C. A&T State University, planning to become a teacher. Wilkerson has two children – Dominique, 4, and Denise, 3 – who were born while she was in college.
“It was very challenging at times,” she said. “At times, I would get discouraged. I would push through …. finishing school was no longer for me. It was for my children. It was to make a better life for my children.”
When the time came to embark on her teaching career, she once again thought that Winston-Salem Preparatory Academy would be the right school for her. Principal Richard Watts thought so, too, and she is now teaching math in a classroom that she once took classes in.
“I am very happy to be here,” Wilkerson said.
When Watts interviewed her for the job, he thought that Wilkerson would be an excellent fit for the school. Having gone there, she had a good sense of what the school’s students are like and the challenges that many of them face.
“She knew her students already,” Watts said. “You already have that edge.”
He could see that she had a vision for her life when she was in high school, he said, and having her at the school now shows students that they too can achieve their goals.
Watts appreciated that she valued her experience at Winston-Salem Prep so much that she wanted to return as a teacher.
“I am honored that she wants to come back to her alma mater to teach,” Watts said. “I think it says a lot about our program.”
Although Wilkerson has a gift for math, she knows that’s not true for every student, and she finds great satisfaction helping to turn on mental light bulbs.
Wilkerson, 23, now works alongside some of the people who taught her as a student. She still addresses them by their last names.
“It’s that respect,” she said. “They were my teachers.”
One of those colleagues is Deborah Gravlee, who is now the school’s curriculum coordinator.
“As her freshman English teacher at WSPA,” Gravlee said, “I watched Beatrice grow into a very articulate and confident student who, when challenged to think, learned how to defend her answer based on her knowledge. She was always eager to learn and participate in the learning process.”
On weekdays, Wilkerson gets up at 5 a.m. so that she can leave the house in time to drop off her son at pre-K and her daughter at daycare and arrive at school in time to tutor students who want extra help before the school day starts. At night, she focuses on her children. Dominique is already showing signs of being a budding teacher. He likes to show his sister the things that he has learned during the day.
“My mom says, ‘He is just like you,’” Wilkerson said.
Recently, she took on the responsibility of being the choir director for the young-adult choir that her church, Goler Memorial A.M.E. Zion, is organizing.