You couldn’t hear yourself think inside Bullen Middle School’s gym Wednesday afternoon, as hundreds of current and past students joined faculty for a special announcement during the school’s Pride Day assembly.

Jackie Meteyard, or “Ms. Bullen” as almost everyone at the school calls her, was where she usually was during these special school assemblies which she helps organize — at the microphone.

That changed quickly however, as a group of students and faculty made their way to the center of the gym wearing leis and carrying signs.

Meteyard won the “Teach for the Beach” award, sponsored by LaMacchia Travel Agency and the Kenosha News.

This school is like my home,” a stunned Meteyard said. “It’s got so much of my heart in it.”

‘Ms. Bullen’

Meteyard has been teaching at Bullen for 25 years. She is the volleyball coach, a physical education teacher and she runs the transition coach program — a peer-mentor program for middle school students going into high school.

She was previously honored as “Teacher of the Year” for Kenosha Unified School District in 2010, but she said this award was more special for her as it was one of her students as well as colleagues who voted for her.

“The trip is awesome but I think it’s validation,” she said. “It made me feel like you’re doing something right.”

Danielle Macareno, a past student of Meteyard’s and now a colleague, nominated Meteyard upon learning about it. Meteyard used to be Macareno’s basketball coach, transition coach and teacher. She now gives her teacher-to-teacher advice, as Macareno is currently working as a substitute teacher at the school.

“She’s always there for everybody. Everybody in the school knows her,” Macareno said. “Her energy is contagious and it keeps us going. This is one way I can say thank you.”

Meteyard’s parents were in attendance to watch her receive the award. They say that Meteyard sometimes calls them two to three times a night to discuss what’s happening at the school.

“There was a time back when she was first in education when she was practice teaching in Janesville,” said Meteyard’s father Dick. “The gal said to her ‘I don’t think you’re going to make it as a teacher.’ Boy, did she prove her wrong.”

Prior students of Meteyard’s will often come back to the school for advice or just to talk with her.

Bullen alum Jacob Hoening now attends Bradford High School. He says Meteyard often hosts after-school tournaments for past alumni — like the event that took place Wednesday, which included an alumni basketball game.

“Even the tournaments she hosts after school ... they always makes memories. It’s something you always look back on,” he said. “It’s something you don’t have in high school and you’re sort of like, ‘Wow, I really miss that.’ I appreciate that she did that for us.”

Meteyard said she changed her main goal as a teacher around 10 years ago after a past student told her she didn’t remember anything during her time in middle school.

“I said that’s not cool ... there should be some memory of middle school,” she said. “I want to be a part of positive memories and why they’ll come back.”

Shauna Hodges, a counselor with the school, has known Meteyard for a long time.

“Her energy ... it’s amazing. When I think of Bullen I think of her,” said Hodges. “She is ‘Ms. Bullen.’ What she does for the students and staff here is just amazing. Her energy is through the roof.”

The award

The award was offered by LaMacchia Travel Agency as a way to give back to the community. After thinking about ways to impact the community, the owners of the agency decided teachers deserved more recognition.

“Teachers out there really mean so much to our community. I can’t stress that enough,” said LaMacchia Travel Agency owner Monica Karnes.

Karnes said she had a teacher who encouraged her.

“It’s hard to be in middle school with all the different things they are facing today,” she said. “If they feel they have someone by their side to talk to and confide in ... it makes all the difference.”

A panel of judges selected 10 finalists from more than 100 nominations.

The 5-day trip will take Meteyard to El Dorado Royal by Karisma in Mexico. The overall trip costs around $5,000, according to LaMacchia. All expenses will be paid for by the agency.

Meteyard said she isn’t sure who she will take with her yet, but she said it will “probably be my mom.”

“I think that this school, we have so many good people that work here that want to do awesome things,” she said. “We offer so many things — a ton of memories. That’s what I really want for them (students).”

10 finalists

Here are the names of the 10 finalists for the Teach for the Beach:

Aaron DeLassus, Central High School District of Westosha

Amanda Bliske, Pleasant Prarie Elementary School

Bonnie Lesperance, Pleasant Prairie Elementary School

Kristi Koschkee, Lakeview Technology Academy

Nichelle Brunner, All Saints Catholic School

Steve Pfeiffer, Southport Elementary School

Jennifer Ours, Phoenix Project (KUSD)

Jacqueline Meteyard, Bullen Middle School (winner)

Jackie Steinborn, Jefferson Elementary School

Laurie Hill, McKinley Elementary School