Willandra Macklin-Malone thought nothing of it when Indiana State Teachers Association President Keith Gambill appeared on screen during a Google Hangout meeting on Wednesday.
The 1994 Shelbyville High School graduate, who was attending the virtual meeting in preparation for a teacher parade in Edinburgh, figured Gambill was there to talk about Teacher Appreciation Week, which he did.
Macklin-Malone, who grew up in Shelbyville, knew she had been nominated for the ISTA’s Minority Educator of the Year award, but did not know she was the recipient until Gambill’s appearance.
“I cried,” she said with a laugh of when she found it. “It’s very humbling and I’m still kind of, I’m not usually a speechless person but it kind of took my breath away. It’s amazing.”
After Gambill announced her as the winner, her fellow teachers cheered and gave their congratulations, both in the moment and later through e-mails and text messages. The group of around two dozen teachers at East Side Elementary in Edinburgh virtually met to discuss a parade in that town, setting the scene for the announcement.
This is Macklin-Malone’s sixth year in education.
She called herself a “late bloomer” in entering the profession after having wanted to go down that path when she was younger.
But she had a change of heart over how much money she would make.
“When you’re young, it’s all about the money,” she said.
As a single mother, budget funding cuts at her previous job sent her on a new path into education.
“That was God’s way of telling me, ‘This is what I want you to do,’” she said. “The door was closed on what I was doing but God opened up an opportunity for me to go back to school.”
She graduated from Indiana University Purdue University Columbus in 2013 and began teaching at Indianapolis Public Schools. She then went to Lawrence Township schools before going to Edinburgh because her husband wanted her closer to home.
She now teaches fourth grade, which she said is a fun age to teach because of the Indiana history lessons that take place at that level.
“I love the curiosity, it’s so fun,” she said. “They’re right at the good age where they don’t know it all. They still give you hugs, but they’re not too little.”