By Nichole Smith
Ms. Taneka Rubin joined the Middle School in January to supervise the study halls and aftercare program. Born into a military family in Germany, she moved many times throughout her childhood until her family moved to Arizona where she grew up. After high school, her family moved to Florida while she stayed in Arizona and enrolled in a junior college where she completed an Associate of Arts Degree while she played basketball. She then went on to complete a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Florida A&M University in Tallahassee where she played for the Lady Rattlers basketball team.
As a child, it was always her dream to play professional basketball in Europe, so after graduating from FAMU, she went on to pursue her master’s degree in international business at the University of East London where she played basketball and was able to get her foot in the door into the overseas professional basketball market. After she graduated, she played professional basketball for Barking Abbey in London, Carnide Cluj in Portugal, Miravelle in Spain, Guisfoes in Portugal, and U Cluj in Romania.
Every time she would return to the United States in the summers, she would always work with youth as a way of giving back. This year, she had an opportunity to start building youth development programs through her nonprofit Winners Win (in the building stage) using sports to teach life skills and build character. “I’m able to touch on some of those values here at MVA, especially through FCA, run by Mrs. Hopman,” she said.
What Ms. Rubin enjoys about being a study hall and aftercare teacher is talking to the kids and getting to know them. “When I was in school, we would put so much effort into our sport that we would neglect things like mental health, college readiness, and career development,” she said. “We were not instilled with the qualities that could make us into a great person that could serve our community. I see how Montverde Academy values those qualities, so that’s how I would like to give back here.”
At a recent Middle School assembly, Ms. Rubin spoke to the students and inspired them to become people of good character. She opened her discussion with a quote that she takes to heart: “Character can’t be received–it must be achieved.” She spoke with them about the power of their words and the impact that those words can have on others, sharing a personal anecdote from her childhood to express her regret of her own negative words. She then gave students the opportunity to take the microphone and share with everyone the name of a person who has been a positive role model in their life. A sea of hands rose across the crowd as students expressed their eagerness to share. After several students gave the name and the reason why this person is their role model, Ms. Rubin commissioned them to be sure to seek out those people and let them know why they look up to them.
In her study hall classes, she enters the room every day and asks them a thought-provoking question before it’s time for them to begin their independent study time. What animal would you be if you could choose to be an animal? Then they start a conversation so that she has the opportunity to get to know them. This helps her to know when they’re okay and when they’re not okay so that she can offer support when the need arises. “Wherever I go, I always want to add value,” she said. “I always want to make an improvement if that’s what is needed.”