What would make you want to work until you’re 100 years old? For Harrison High School’s Andrea Walter, it was being named the Phenomenal Friday Teacher of the Week and hearing a former student, Brooke, explain how she increased Brooke’s success more than any other teacher.
“When I realized that after 15 years on the job, I’m still making that kind of impact on kids and I’m still seeing them grow and be excited about learning,” Walters said, “it absolutely makes me want to keep doing this until I’m 100 years old!”
As Walters listened to Brooke praise her teaching style, she was stunned and amazed.
“I was completely overwhelmed, blown away,” she confessed. “It is not usual for an English teacher to be without words, and I was completely without words.”
Brooke, a senior at Harrison, knew she was going to love Walter’s class the first day she walked into AP Language Arts class her junior year. Despite the difficult subject matter, Walters always made her lessons and class discussions interesting.
“I think [Ms. Walters] stands out in such a tough class because a lot of AP teachers do care about you, but they focus on the test and the grades,” Brooke explained. “It didn’t feel like she was just focusing on our grade. I felt like she was actually focusing on growing us as students.”
That is Walter’s intent exactly. She aims to build relationships with her students too. The Phenomenal teacher doesn’t just focus on the academic side. Her goal is to reach the whole student and remind them why each student is important.
Brooke, who scored well in her AP Language Arts class and on her AP exam, credits Walters. Even when Brooke made a good grade on a paper, Walters always left suggestions in the margins for ways that Brooke could strengthen her writing.
“I’ve always loved writing, but Ms. Walters made me realize that you don’t have to write about fictional things. You can write about real world things and make it interesting. That’s why she really had an impact on me,” Brooke added.
The Harrison Teacher of the Week wants to spark her students’ interest in literature while also helping them develop the communication skills they need to be successful after high school. One way that Walters thinks she positively impacts students is through her class discussions.
“We have some pretty honest conversations in my room,” Walters explained. “If we can show each other kindness, we can inspire each other to do well and learn. A lot of the world functions well if we are good communicators. I try to model that to my class and help [the students] explore their own voice.”
The Phenomenal teacher was honest with her students about a medical issue she was battling in her personal life. That honesty made Brooke admire and respect her AP teacher more.
“Last year was a difficult journey for me personally,” Walters shared. “The kids were really gracious about what I was going through. I felt like I was honest and open with them. I’m happy that they saw the positive model that you can face adversity in your private life, still be professional, build relationships with people, and have a positive outlook.”
Brooke doesn’t think teachers like Walters get as much recognition as they deserve for being at the core of student success. That’s why Brooke was grateful for the opportunity to thank her AP teacher in such a public way. Walters is going to cherish her Phenomenal Friday Teacher of the Week award more because a student gave it to her.
“[Students] know what we are like. They know our mistakes and see our flaws. So, when they award us with praise and recognition, it is meaningful,” the Phenomenal teacher explained.
Walters, who has been teaching for 15 years, has some advice for new teachers.
“The day you think you know it all is the day you should probably quit [teaching]. I learn from my kids every day,” she said while tearing up. “The exchange with them keeps me loving what I do. They come with important things on their minds. We need to make sure that we are listening to them and protect them because they are our most precious resource. They truly are our future.”
Learn about what makes the other Phenomenal Friday Teachers of the Week stand out at their schools: http://goo.gl/Eg31Wc