Recently, an independent firm conducted a survey of our school to help us with our five-year strategic planning. Many parents, students, and faculty participated and results found that one of Walker’s greatest assets is its teachers. Students felt that teachers were willing to stay after school to help them with their academics and genuinely cared about them and their success. Most of us can look back on teachers who have taught us and pull out one or two whom we felt truly cared about us. For me, one was Ms. Shepherd, my senior English teacher and annual staff sponsor, who treated us as individuals with different talents…convincing me that I could be editor of our annual that year…an experience that I still treasure.
In his book, Good to Great, Jim Collins discusses the importance of getting the right people on the bus…the need to find the right folks for the right job. Getting the right people on the bus can be a challenging process for schools. It involves finding excellent teachers who are committed to students and to a school’s vision and mission. It is finding the Ms. Shepherd’s of this world who built on her students’ interests and allowed them to shine. Walker recruits and strives to retain the best, most-talented, committed teachers who are dedicated to giving their students a caring, engaging educational experience. A few weeks ago I visited Mrs. Katherine Harrison’s Fifth Grade Spanish class. I was amazed at how well the children responded as she conducted the entire class in Spanish! She created groups and assigned projects according to students’ interests. They were excited to be there, and I left wishing my French classes had been as well taught when I was in high school!
So how important are teachers really? Research indicates that teachers are key to student learning (Inlay, 2003). U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, believes that the best thing you can do for children is to get them in front of an extraordinary teacher (Net Assets, 2012). Teachers set the climate for the classroom and provide role models for their students (Bond, 2010). They create a class culture where children feel a sense of belonging and feel free to take risks, to make mistakes. This culture provides an atmosphere of collaboration that is less conducive to bullying, teasing, and exclusion. At Walker, teachers of each division are passionate about their students…“called,” if you will, and specifically trained to teach the particular age with which they interact daily. They know their students; they know when they are having a bad day or when they are celebrating a personal win. They are happy with them and sad with them. They cheer for them at plays, games, and assemblies. This connection is one reason Walker teachers love to teach and one way they demonstrate their authentic interest in their students beyond the classroom, creating meaningful relationships that will remain in one’s memory for a lifetime.