Ms. Walker: Teacher of the Year, 2018

The Voyager staff journeyed to Room 206 to ask a few dozen questions to Ms. Maryann Walker


What makes a great teacher? Some would say passion; others would say personality; many would say knowledge; but Ms. Walker, Eastern’s 2017–2018 Teacher of the Year, is living proof that there is no one trait that defines a teacher.

In fact, she embodies all of those traits—and much, much more.

Ms. Walker has been teaching at Eastern for twenty years (with the exception of substitute teaching one day in Woodbury)–inadvertently. She came to Eastern with the intention of becoming a guidance counselor. For that, she needed three years of teaching experience. “I fell in love with teaching and never turned back. I never intended to be a teacher. I hated high school!”

But what exactly made her fall in love with teaching?

“Teenagers are so funny,” she said emphatically. “Some days I would go home laughing, because the things they would say would be so funny. Like today—I asked why we were in the Spanish- American War and some kid answered, ‘Because.’ I didn’t have a comeback for that.”

Although some days can be worse than others, she does not let the bad days get her down. Ms. Walker, like other compassionate teachers, knows that no one is perfect—neither students nor teachers.

“Everyday is a new day, both for me and the kids,” she said, nodding. “If a kid is having a bad day and doesn’t act properly, I just remember that the next day is a new day.”

Eastern is special to her not only because of the freedom she gets, but also because she is challenged. “We get fantastic kids and a very diverse group of kids,” she said.

“I think we could be more diverse than we are, but diversity is very key to me.”

But the very thing that makes Eastern special to Ms. Walker’s fellow teachers and administrators is Ms. Walker herself.

“Ms. Walker is a wonderful role model for both her colleagues and students,” said district superintendent Dr. Melleby. “She is kind, compassionate, and a very good listener … she continues to touch the lives of so many people every day she enters our school building.”

Fellow history teachers Mr. Lindenhofen and Mr. Colton, who were involved in the Teacher of the Year committee, agreed.

“Usually the candidates have had a very successful year working with students inside and outside the classroom,” said Mr. Lindenhofen. “They know their content, they’re working with students during lunch and after school—people who are dedicated, and everyone knows it. Ms. Walker has been doing that for a long time.”

The question about Ms. Walker was not if she was going to be Teacher of the Year, but rather why she hadn’t been yet, Mr. Colton added

“I don’t know that there’s a more committed person on the staff when it comes to student advocacy. She’s always willing to take on new challenges. Ms. Walker is just a super person to work with.”

Ms. Walker has taught everything from US History to sociology to psychology— even the seemingly mundane personal nance requirement. With her extensive knowledge in the humanities and social sciences, one would think there is nothing she hasn’t taught. Yet her curiosity peaks in the subject of World History, a subject she has not taught.

“I don’t think I want to teach this because it’s really, really hard, but I love World History,” she said. “I wish I knew more.”

This love of world history has translated into her desire to travel, specifically to Eastern Bloc countries (of which she has already visited East Berlin and the Czech Republic). She finds such regions interesting, especially considering that they used to be communist.

“Those people are my age, and they grew up with communism,” she said curiously. “The idea that you would be in a communist or totalitarian state and then suddenly not be is just shocking to me. I want to understand that.”

Ms. Walker has always been curious, even from a young age, when her role models included Harriet the Spy and Pippi Longstocking, who she cites as being “incredibly formative” in her childhood.

“Girls were expected to read books that had boy protagonists, which is fine,” she said, “but I just needed to hear a girl’s voice, and they were.”

This curiosity and mindset that she could do anything has perhaps translated into her teaching style. History teacher and EEA President Mr. Lindenhofen cited her as someone who never stops learning her craft, constantly researching better ways to implement the curriculum.

“She’s done everything she can to master technology so she can reach more students,” he said. “She’s always trying to hit as many learning styles as she can.”

It is perhaps this interest in a variety of areas that inspired her to pursue careers before teaching, including social work and hosting a radio show, which she said was one of the most fun things she has ever done.

“I don’t remember the name of it,” she said, “but we got to interview people.”

She interviewed political figures and spoke on public affairs. “Then I’d play a couple Clash tunes, and then I’d interview, like, an organic farmer. Progressive-type stuff. I absolutely loved that. It was great.”

Her interests indeed stretch far and wide, beyond the realms of teaching.

Ms. Walker, a Philadelphia native, has always been interested in sports, recalling seeing a 76ers game as a little girl in 1967, when no one had seatbelts. “My friend’s dad was taking everyone to the game, and he basically opened the back door and everyone in the neighborhood piled in. There were kids stacked to the ceiling!”

When she’s not teaching, Ms. Walker spends her summers at the beach and her free time with her two cats, Dewey and Stevie. “I love cats. I love dogs, too, but dogs are like having kids. Too hard.”

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