Breyana Wilson

Contact: Megan Looker
A high school senior sits outside Maple Street Magnet Middle School for the Arts in Kalamazoo.

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Sometimes all it takes is one person to make a difference. For incoming Western Michigan University freshman Breyana Wilson, that person was her Maple Street Magnet School for the Arts teacher and WMU alumna, Stephanie Hampton.

“Every day walking in, she always has that rockstar energy—that’s what I call it. She’s always on top of it, always 100 percent,” Wilson said of the 2019 Middle School English Teacher of the Year. “She gets really excited about books. That’s one thing that’s always stuck with me about her, is her enthusiasm when it comes to literacy.”

Wilson says Hampton has a passion for introducing students to literature they wouldn’t necessarily read on their own, and has taught her about different genres, writers and poets—fostering a new career option she never imagined pursuing.

Video of First-Year Faces: Breyana Wilson

“I love to read because of her,” Wilson explains. She “instilled something in all of her students that I wanted to have for myself, and not only that, but to give to other students. And that’s kind of what pushed me in the direction of wanting to become a teacher.”

“Not only that, but she was a Western student, so why not go where the greatest was trained?” 

A high school student stands in front of a colorful mural at Maple Street Magnet Middle School for the Arts.

This fall, the Loy Norrix High School graduate will join Bronco nation as a special education major. The innovative and demanding program will prepare her to meet the unique needs of a diverse range of kindergarten through 12th grade students with learning disabilities and emotional impairments.

“I thought about what profession would allow me to touch the most people in the time that I have, and teaching was it,” Wilson says.

As for the decision to come to WMU, she came to that conclusion years before higher education was on her horizon.

“I first took my official trip to Western when I was in the sixth grade with Bronco Buds, and, you know, I kind of felt like that was the place for me,” she says. “Western’s staff has always been very inviting, welcoming and they truly want what will be the best fit for you.”

As for her aspirations of becoming a teacher, Wilson says she knows WMU is the best place to start her journey before hopefully returning to her Kalamazoo Public School roots.

“There’s not a lot of teachers that are teaching in KPS that don’t have a degree from Western, whether it’s a bachelor’s or master’s degree. And I’ve had great teachers,” Wilson adds. “I think that will offer me something that a different university wouldn’t necessarily be able to offer to me. And there’s a lot of successful teachers that come out of Western.”

To read about more student experiences, visit First-Year Faces online.