What’s Your Story?

There are two stories that I love to share about The Walker School that I believe capture much of who we are and what we believe.  The first is about the boundless opportunities that exist for students at Walker. It goes like this:

We have purposely maintained an intimately scaled environment at Walker, because it gives a clear alternative for families who want their children to be known, involved, and inspired.  It is not unusual, for example, for students involved in theater, band or orchestra to also be involved on an athletic team.  There have been many band concerts in which student- athletes arrive straight from a game dressed in a baseball uniform.  

9B0121FE-F189-4F35-A9E9-9A47FECF190AMy favorite example of this was when McClain McKinney (pictured), was playing football at the same time he was starring in the fall musical, Little Women.  The football coach and theater director both worked out a mutually beneficial schedule for McClain. On the Friday night that the play was in production and the football team was also playing, the play was moved from an 8pm to 6:30pm start.  DCDB8CB1-C3DD-4DD2-9B3E-60341262B46AMcClain arrived at the football game versus archrival Mt. Paran at halftime and played the entire second half, helping Walker secure a key win during a region championship season.  After the game, I remember walking up to McClain on the field to congratulate him and realizing, when he took his helmet off, that he still had his stage makeup on – only at Walker!

Don’t take my word for it; watch the video below to listen to McClain discuss his diverse Walker experience in his own words:

 

The second story speaks to the reason why faculty are drawn to teach at Walker, a school where teachers are revered and can teach in an environment where learning is the chief priority of the school.  I often share this story with families who are weighing their public or private school options:

Several years ago, I was interviewing a prospective faculty member who taught history at a local public school.  When I asked her to describe her teaching load, she said she had six classes with 35 students in each class – a total teaching load of 215 students.  I was flabbergasted! When I asked her what type of assessments she gave her students, she acknowledged that she could only give multiple choice assessments that could be graded through a machine via Scantron.  As a history teacher, she said one of the main reasons she wanted to teach in a smaller environment like Walker was that she wanted get to know her students better and to teach critical thinking and writing skills to prepare them for life beyond high school.  This teacher is beginning her fourth year at Walker, where she has five classes with an average class size of 15 students, and is now also a proud Walker parent!

Perhaps you have a favorite story you would like to share about your experience at The Walker School.  I encourage you to put it down in writing and share it with me!   I would love to read it and share with prospective families.  

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Fostering Meaningful Relationships On and Off the Field – Matt Casper

In his last blog entry, Jack Hall described a moment at a cross country meet that perfectly illustrated how important creating and maintaing meaningful relationships is to our school community.  As head coach of Walker’s varsity football team, I realize that the success of our team rests on the relationships between our players. I am constantly striving to make sure that the Walker football program provides balance to our players through a combination of athletics, academics, and service.ALSwalk

In early September, sophomore and linebacker Candler Boland came to me to ask if we could help raise awareness of ALS, a disease that his father Mike has been battling since 2012. On most Saturday mornings, the team gathers at Walker to watch film from the last night’s game and spends time in the weight room, preparing for the upcoming week. However, on this Saturday, September 19, 35 members of the Wolverine football team and coaches woke up met at the World Congress Center to proudly participate in the Walk to Defeat ALS with the Boland family.

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As I walked among my fellow coaches and players and we watched our athletes interact with each other outside of their normal routines, I realized that some of the best ways to foster these meaningful relationships happens off the field. I am so proud of our athletes for rallying around their fellow teammate to support a great cause. Candler did an outstanding job of organizing the walk and representing his family that day, and to date, the team has raised over $18,800.

Walker’s Core Strengths: Meaningful Relationships

WalkerCrossCountryI have great admiration for everyone who runs cross country, no matter where they finish in a race.  It takes courage to join the team and amazing perseverance to train and compete.  So I cheer just as much for the student-athlete finishing last as I do the one finishing first.  This past weekend our middle school cross country team took that perspective much further as the final runner came out of the woods, headed for the finish line.  Without any prompting by a coach or adult, members of the Walker Middle School Cross Country team – who had already finished the race – ran into the woods so that they could run with, encourage, and support the final contestant.  It was one of the most inspirational moments I have experienced as a head of school at Walker, and a picture of meaningful relationships at its very best.

Part of the beauty of Walker is that our school size overall and small class sizes facilitate the degree to which meaningful relationships can develop.  One of the key reasons parents choose Walker for their children is that they know each child is going to be valued, challenged and inspired at an exponentially different level than other schools.  

Several weeks ago, a recent Walker graduate wrote the following as a way of saying “thank you” to her teachers:

“One of the wonderful attributes of Walker is the close relationships the teachers and students have. You inspired me, helped me, guided me, and of course, taught me. One of many things that are so special about the faculty at Walker is that you don’t feel your job ends with the last bell of the day. You seem to love truly what you do.  You have given out cell phone numbers, stayed long after school, and even held review sessions on the weekends to answer questions and insure your students’ success.  Your talents often stretch far beyond the classroom, too.  We see you racing from the all-too-famous Wednesday faculty meetings to a practice or game, and others of you are getting up early to unlock your room for a morning club meeting.  To Walker faculty, teaching isn’t just a job; it’s your life, and your dedication shows.”

Walker has an amazing, long-standing reputation for providing challenging academics, talented and dedicated faculty, meaningful relationships, boundless opportunities, peerless college preparation all within a community that is both nurturing and diverse. These core strengths represent the hallmark of a Walker education, and throughout this school year, I will be using this space to highlight each of these core strengths, starting with meaningful relationships.

Middle School Softball Team Sacrifices to Hit a Home Run

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The Walker Middle School softball team ended its season this year with a 15-4 record. How did the girls get there?

The journey started in fall of 2011. On the first day of tryouts, only four or five players showed up – hardly enough to field a softball team. The search was on to find more players. Thankfully, there were five fifth graders – Camryn Cowan, Madeline Daniel, Shelby Kraal, SaraBeth McClure and Claire Mohandiss – eagerly awaiting their call up to the “big leagues” of the Middle School team. Not only would they fill the need for players, but the crew also included two pitchers.  The team worked hard and played their best in every game, ignoring the size difference between our fifth graders and the eighth grade opponents. The season was filled with the joy of playing and a tangible excitement over being part of the team. The enthusiasm would produce two wins and was more than enough to keep the girls interested in playing for the next two years.

The fall 2012 season was filled with many of the same challenges. The fifth graders were now officially a part of the Middle School; the team was built around these five returning sixth graders and three returning seventh graders. The spirit from the previous year continued and the team focused on learning and improving. The team posted a 2-11-1 record that season and eagerly looked to the future.

When the fall 2013 season arrived, the thrill of the game was still alive for this core group of softball players. The seventh and eighth graders were now playing their third season together. Admittedly, they were not sure what to expect, and they set a goal to reach the NAML tournament. The season opened with a tight game against Mt. Vernon. Walker eked out a one-run win, 8-7. The thrill of victory quickly became contagious and the team was off to a quick 3-0 start, setting new benchmarks along the way.

In the Fall Sports Awards Assembly, eighth grader Randi Epstein recounted the sharp contrast in improvement for the 2013 season. “Let me paint you a picture,” she began, “In 2012, our overall record was 2 wins 11 losses and 1 tie, in 2013, our overall record was 15 wins and only four losses. In 2012, we scored a total of 73 runs for the season, but this year, we scored a total of 211 runs.” What an amazing season!

While the team just barely missed reaching the championship game in a one-run extra inning loss to Providence, the improvement and perseverance of this group of girls was the true mark of champions.