Tamika Peters is a 3rd grade ELA teacher at Liberty Elementary School and the Academic Coordinator for Liberty’s OST program with ChildFirst Authority. She has worked at Liberty since 2005 when she first joined the district as a long-term substitute before becoming a paraeducator. In 2016, Tamika became a certified teacher.
How long have you been a building rep?
I have been a Building Rep for over 7 years. I was the PSRP Rep before becoming the Teacher Rep 3 years ago.
What motivates you to keep teaching in BCPSS?
The community motivates me. The fact that I know that our youth need to see teachers that look like them keeps me motivated. I always said that once I leave BCPSS, I do not plan to teach in any other district. I love Baltimore City and its students!
What inspired you to become a building rep?
One of my mentors, Sharon Forrest, told me she saw leadership qualities in me. She was the BR for the teacher unit and I became the BR for the PSRP unit. Under her guidance, I learned what the union did and the great benefit of being a part of the union. As I attended meetings, I wanted to share the mission with the staff at Liberty. When my mentor passed away, I knew I had to continue her work.
As a BR, how have you supported BTU members at your school during the pandemic?
The 2020-2021 school year has been the busiest year I’ve ever had. At Liberty, we had a new principal and we were trying to navigate through virtual learning. The staff was on edge and rightfully so. I supported my staff in many ways. I did things like send monthly video messages with updates, I shared parts of the BR meetings with staff, and I helped solve issues with leave and other issues. I also helped to make sure that our start date was pushed back due to the construction in our school. The main thing I did was listen to every staff member that reached out to me. This was a different and difficult year for all.
What was it like being a BTU Youthworks Supervisor this summer?
This summer was absolutely amazing. I LOVED every aspect of it. As an elementary school teacher, the majority of my work is centered around the younger population. This summer I was blessed to work with young adults who live in Baltimore City, ages 16-19. The young adults attended a variety of schools including private schools. The Youthworkers learned about the power of youth voices, financial literacy, resume writing and the workings of the union. We also learned about and investigated the health and safety measures that the BTU is currently fighting for.
You co-facilitated an anti-racism AU course that was a collaboration between BTU and Teachers Democracy Project and supported teachers in doing anti-racism work in our schools. What were some of your takeaways from that experience? In your opinion, how can BTU best assist in helping to break down structural racism in our schools/workplaces and communities?
This course is needed to better educate our student population and ourselves. Race, equity and anti-racism are difficult but necessary topics that need to be discussed, especially in the education setting. From experience, it is recognized that this topic can and will bring about some heated discussions that can affect the workplace relationships in a negative or positive manner. Creating a supportive space is needed and necessary.
In organizing this collaboration, I learned that many educators saw the need for this and were ready to do the work. I also learned that many teachers of all races were not aware of how their biases show up daily at work and in the classroom. This collaboration really allowed uncensored conversations to happen that are needed in all school systems, especially ours.
In my opinion, the BTU can best assist by organizing more of these conversations and collaborations. This is a topic that is gaining momentum due to the visuals of racism being shown during primetime. People are starting to become aware of the world we are living in. It is time to make them aware of the environments that help form these beliefs. Not everyone will agree but the seeds can be planted to help navigate this growth.
What challenges do you anticipate during this new school year? How do you plan to meet those challenges?
We now have a 2nd year principal, and this will be his first year in person at our school, as well as a new assistant principal. One of the biggest challenges I am preparing for is the staff (myself included) feeling overwhelmed. Returning during a pandemic with new leadership will be a major change for us all. I am focusing on the wellbeing of ALL Liberty staff! I will continue to reach out to the staff I serve but also build a bridge for admin and the staff. This year will have a lot of changes but we MUST work together.
What is your favorite thing about being a BTU member?
The freedom of knowing I am protected and I have someone that is always willing to listen to me and help. It is a great feeling.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
To everyone reading this, PLEASE take the time to take care of yourself. That can mean mentally, spiritually, physically, socially and financially (to name a few). You are at your best when you are in a great place. This school year will be challenging but continue to show up for you and it will help you be able to show up for others.