After graduating from Brown Deer High School and enrolling into the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, it didn’t take Toshiba Adams long to realize that a career in accounting didn’t suit her. After one year, she switched her major and graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Educational Policy and Community Studies.
“Accounting was just not for me. I’m glad I was able to change my major and take courses that would ultimately allow me to teach at the college level. This is where I’ll be for the rest of my life. This is who I am,” she said.
Born and raised in Brown Deer, Adams is the middle child born to Bazel and Jesse Stewart. She has a younger sister and an older brother and sister.
“My parents were great role models. I grew up in a traditional family. During high school I played basketball and ran track (her team actually qualified and participated in State competition twice), and worked at what was then M&I Data Services through my school’s co-op program,” said Adams.
After college, Adams married and when her first son was born, she and her mother collaborated to open a childcare center on Milwaukee’s northwest side.
“I didn’t want someone else caring for my son during the day. Starting the daycare allowed me the opportunity to raise my son and earn an income. I love helping young people grow and develop. Healthy child development has the capacity to impact a child’s entire life. What a child does and experiences in the first couple of years is so important,” she said.
Adams went on to study Early Childhood Education, earning a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She also taught at UWM for three years and worked for several community-based organizations until she was offered a full-time position teaching at MATC. She is currently completing her doctoral studies in Urban Education and expects to graduate in December of 2018.
When Adams was hired by MATC as an instructor, her family sold and closed their childcare facility. From 2012 to 2017, in addition to being an Early Childhood Education Instructor, Adams also assumed the role of Curriculum Coordinator for MATC’s Educational Research and Dissemination (ER&D) department, helping to develop and coordinate professional development courses on teaching and the use of new technology in the classroom for MATC instructors. ER&D is a professional development initiative sponsored by MATC and the American Federation of Teachers Local 212.
In this role, much of the work that Adams did centered on anticipating the needs of the college in terms of instructional technology tools, innovative teaching methods and cultural relevance. Adams’ work in teaching technology in the classroom ranges from instruction on Blackboard, the college’s standard online teaching and organization tool to designing videos, using Skype, video streaming, voice thread, social media, and computer games— any cutting edge tool available to help keep students engage in learning.
Adams is noticing that more students—of all ages—are taking Early Childhood Education courses at MATC.
“Most prospects are applying to complete our associate’s degree program, which usually takes three to four years. Some are coming right out of high school, while others are career-switchers; we get them from 18 to 60 years of age. Lately, through MATC’s Promise Program, we have been enrolling younger students,” said Adams.
MATC’s Promise program provides free college tuition for area high school graduates who meet program eligibility requirements. The MATC Promise assists area high school students achieve their dream of attending college and prepares them for the workforce.
“What’s most rewarding for me is coming into the classroom the first couple of weeks and seeing the students nervous and apprehensive, but halfway through the semester the light bulbs begin going off. I can feel their excitement as they make the transition from novice to competent students. It’s also gratifying to witness students achieving their goals. I enjoy attending graduations twice a year. I realize that education is a vital part of their lives and for them to be able to acquire that education means that they are better able to take care of their families. I’m always happy to see them achieve their milestones,” said Adams.
Adams said that the national landscape changes in the daycare arena have also prompted some of the increase in the number of students pursuing early childhood education certifications and degrees.
“In addition to the changes that are occurring on a national level, there are several state requirements in Wisconsin related to early childhood education. The State of Wisconsin is requiring more education—particularly among daycare centers working on YoungStar requirements. Childcare facilities are requiring workers to be more qualified and, overall, they are better informed. Of course, the downfall is that these early childhood educators are not being compensated at the same level as the education requirements. I wish they could be better compensated for their work. As a previous daycare facility owner, I realize that working in the classroom is a lot of work. You have to be passionate about the work because you’re not compensated at the level that you should be,” she said.
These days Adams juggles her jobs as Instructor and Instructional Chair along with being a wife to Vincent, her husband of almost 22 years, and mother to her children, Isaiah 21, and Ariel 19, both of whom attend MATC. She also has two ‘bonus’ sons, 25 and 33, and four grandchildren.
“The days fly by,” she said. “It never feels like work to me because I’m doing what I enjoy. I don’t know how I’ll ever retire. I get a good feeling about what I do each day, so I rest easy at night,” she said.
In her spare time, Adams enjoys traveling with family, reading novels and scholarly articles related to education.
“I know it sounds peculiar that I read scholarly articles on education in my ‘down’ time, but I’m always looking for innovative ways to enhance education for families—especially families of color. I want to ensure that educational opportunities are equalized for everyone, so all communities can promote their social, economic and academic status. I try to determine ways to better support individuals who are striving to make a better life for themselves and those they love,” she said.