Women of the Year 2021: Dr. Belinda Tubbs-Wallace says she's 'down with good trouble' – The Cincinnati Enquirer

Dr. Belinda Tubbs-Wallace is a celebrated educator and administrator who has been recognized for her accomplishments as one of this year’s Enquirer Women of the Year honorees.
But the principal of Woodward Career Technical High School in Bond Hill said she may have taken a decidedly different career path if not for the determined intervention of her older sister, Joyce Tubbs.
When she was a student at Aiken High School in College Hill, the younger sister wanted to be a hairdresser for the stars.
She developed the skills, and an enviable client list, by doing hair for friends of her older brother – former heavyweight boxing champion Tony Tubbs, who held the WBA heavyweight title from 1985 to 1986.
“My sister actually encouraged me to go to college … because that wasn’t the plan,’’ Tubbs-Wallace said. “The plan was to do hair because, of course, my brother knew all the stars. But she pressed me and pressed me to go to Central State University, to the point where she actually filled out the application for me.’’
Tubbs-Wallace, who lives in Springfield Township with her husband of 30 years, Robert Wallace, graduated from Central State in 1991 with a degree in sociology.
She moved to Columbus shortly thereafter to become a social worker handling neglect and drug dependency cases for Franklin County Children Services.
After five years of helping kids deal with the drama and despair of their daily lives, she said she had an epiphany that brought her back to Cincinnati.
“The children were so antagonistic and downtrodden in terms of seeing their future that I knew I had to help,” she said. “One day I told my friends in Columbus, ‘I’m moving to Cincinnati to become a teacher.’ “
Fortuitously, her alma mater, Aiken, had an opening for a human services instructor teaching classes on subjects related to social work or working in the community.
“How ordained was that? I came home and fell right into a paid position as a teacher,” said Tubbs-Wallace, who grew up in College Hill in a house that boxing legend Muhammad Ali – one of her brother’s sparring partners – bought for the family.
She’s been making a positive impact on the lives of her students and staff ever since, abiding by her mantra that “anything’s possible in the spirit of righteousness.”
Tubbs-Wallace first came to Woodward in 2010 as an assistant principal.
In 2014, she requested a transfer to Pleasant Hill Elementary School in College Hill, where she also attended grade school, and became assistant principal there.
The move came with a pay cut, but it also allowed her to spend more time with her young sons, Noah and Elijah, now 22 and 25, respectively.
After a year at Pleasant Hill, Tubbs-Wallace became principal at Rockdale Academy elementary school in Avondale before transferring back to Woodward in 2019.
“It was hard leaving my babies,’’ she said, proudly noting that many of her former elementary school students followed her to Woodward.
Tubbs-Wallace said making the transition to her current role at the height of the pandemic was a challenge that continues to test her to this day.
“People were missing or absent because of the pandemic and being quarantined,’’ she said. “Kids are still dealing with the loss of family members and friends. Just learning how to manage those challenges has been difficult for educators.”
But those challenges have also shed light on what Tubbs-Wallace described as one of the most underappreciated aspects of teaching – protecting the emotional well-being of students.
“We focus on scores and assessments in the school system, but you can’t expect a student to succeed until their basic social and emotional needs are met,” she said.
Tubbs-Wallace said she plans to one day soon take that message to Washington, D.C., to appeal to lawmakers to mandate more social-emotional learning curriculum in classrooms.
In the words of former U.S. Rep. John Lewis, who devoted his life to social justice and equality, Tubbs-Wallace said she hoped to get into “good trouble” if she ever has an opportunity to appear before Congress.
“I want to get to Washington to speak with some change agents who are in a position to re-imagine and rethink education,” she said. “I’m a risk taker. I’m willing to go for it. I’m down with good trouble.”
When she’s not advocating for changes to the school system’s status quo, Tubbs-Wallace can be found working out at the Powel Crosley, Jr. YMCA in Finneytown, working in her garden or working on one of the investment properties she has purchased with her husband over the past several years.
“We do a lot of rehab on houses,” she said, noting that she and her husband own several student-housing properties near Central State in in Wilberforce, Ohio.
“If I’m not working in my yard, I’m working on houses. I’ve been doing that for about seven years.”
Birthplace: Cincinnati
Current residence: Springfield Township
Family: Husband Robert Wallace; sons Noah and Elijah
Education: Bachelor’s degree in  sociology, Central State University; master’s degree in counseling education, University of Dayton; master’s degree in education and educational administration, University of Cincinnati; doctorate in educational leadership, Xavier University
Occupation: Principal, Woodward Career Technical High School
What inspires you to give back?  “The growth and betterment of others is my ministry. Being a champion and encouraging others to support others allows more to be accomplished and fills the hearts of many. More will receive, and more will be given, and this makes both me and my father smile. It’s the business of the Lord.” 
What need in the community would you like to see addressed? “I would like to see more responsible adults taking risks on behalf of children. Despite what people think and/or suggest that parents don’t care, or don’t want your support in parenting their children, they really do. We all need each other, so if the community would band together to lend support – emotionally, financially and spiritually – we could have astronomical growth in a short period of time. So trust is the key, and we must garner up trust at a fast rate.”
Who most influenced or inspired you to care about others?  My mother Leola Tubbs is my greatest influence to give and care for others. Growing up with nine siblings and dedicated parents was not enough for my parents. As many African American families, we always had to provide for others, whether it was a relative or friend. We grew up in a village, it was never just you and biological siblings in the house. At any given time, a person was living with us – strangers from the homeless center, distant relatives, etc. You were always in need if they were in need. So as a child, I was good, when others around me were good. There is always room to feed another, help another and give another. That has always been my family’s mantra. If that wasn’t enough, I married a giver 30 years ago, my husband Robert Wallace. He has literally given the shoes off his feet. I mean really, he went into a gas station before and came out without shoes. So this has been a natural progression for my life. It’s the primary factor to my blessings. The more you sow, the more you grow.”


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