January 13, 2005: Headlines: COS - Jamaica: Marriage: Secondary Education: Peoria Journal Sta: Val Walker is high school teacher: The Walkers met in Jamaica, where she was a Peace Corps volunteer

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Jamaica: Peace Corps Jamaica : The Peace Corps in Jamaica: January 13, 2005: Headlines: COS - Jamaica: Marriage: Secondary Education: Peoria Journal Sta: Val Walker is high school teacher: The Walkers met in Jamaica, where she was a Peace Corps volunteer

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Val Walker is high school teacher: The Walkers met in Jamaica, where she was a Peace Corps volunteer

Val Walker is high school teacher: The Walkers met in Jamaica, where she was a Peace Corps volunteer

Val Walker is high school teacher: The Walkers met in Jamaica, where she was a Peace Corps volunteer

Jamaica native quite a role model - Roosevelt teacher wants to show, not tell,

Jan 13, 2005

Peoria Journal Star

by Sharon Oberholtzer

PEORIA - Teaching was never intended to be Val Walker's permanent career, at least not when he started doing it.

"I always thought it was a stepping stone," he said. "Now I think I'm addicted."

The 32-year-old native of Jamaica is so enthralled with teaching he came back to work two days early from back surgery to be with his seventh- and eighth-grade science students at District 150's Roosevelt Magnet School.

"We have a good batch of students," he said. "We have high expectations, and if you expect big things, they'll come through and do well."

Prior to his three years in Peoria, Walker taught four years in Jamaica and another four in Florida in Miami-Dade. His wife, Mary, is from Bloomington and thought it would be nice to have their children around family.

"I didn't factor in the weather when I moved," he joked, adding he and his wife say they will work in the states and retire to Jamaica.

Walker has his diploma in physical education and science from Sam Sharpe Teachers College in Montego Bay and a bachelor's degree in science education from the University of the West Indies.

He received his master's in environmental science from Florida International University and is working on a doctorate in curriculum and instruction at the University of Illinois.

The personable young teacher came to Roosevelt at the time Principal Taunya Jenkins was looking to raise the bar.

"He came in as a leader. He organized a science fair for all students," Jenkins said. "That helped us set the bar for all students. . . He works with fourth-grade students and puts them with seventh-graders."

The duo-grade project is a once-a-week class that gives the fourth-graders an opportunity to touch, to feel, to experience the lab.

A mother of a Roosevelt graduate said Walker makes the students think like they never did before.

"We can say mitochondria to my daughter, and she says 'power house for cells.' She will never forget it," the mother said.

Walker believes in teaching skills for the real world.

"It starts with expectations," he said. "I'm preparing them for the real world - high school and college. You have to think beyond middle school, what will make them successful. At all times, you have to tie in what they are doing with the real world. What they are doing is valuable and applicable to real life. This is important because it affects real life."

Teaching for the real world means teaching with real materials, he said.

"I will never have them do word searches. They do projects, hands- on-activities, PowerPoint presentations and lab work," he said. "I do a lot of computer-oriented work. The kids learn to use Microsoft office tools."

Realizing many of his students don't have the luxury of having computers at home, he makes it possible for them to stay after school and work on the computers there.

As the only black male teacher at the predominately black school, Walker knows a lot of impressionable young eyes are on him at all times.

"I consider myself to be a role model to the kids," Walker said. "I want to show these kids, especially young black males, that you can be a doctor, be in academia - not just a football player."

He uses his childhood in a poor country as an example of how far a person can come in this country.

"The idea is for them to understand how a kid from Jamaica came to this country and got a doctorate. In this country, if you work hard and have the right attitude, you can make it no matter who you are," he said. "In some countries you can work hard and have the right attitude and you can't."

Since Walker joined the faculty at Roosevelt, his students' ISAT scores have gone up 12 points. A year ago, 78 percent met or exceeded the goal and this year it was 75 percent.

"It's not just what I do," he said. "My biggest asset is I work with all the teachers."

He also believes the implementation of the schoolwide science fair helped the ISAT scores go up.

In addition to his work in the classroom, Walker is the chairperson of the science department, coaches boys and girls track and coaches the Scholar's Cup for the more academically gifted. And in the summer, he works at a camp in upstate New York.

Walker and his wife have three children, and he is his 5-year- old daughter's basketball coach. The other children are four and 19 months old.

The Walkers met in Jamaica, where she was a Peace Corps volunteer. A graduate of Illinois State University with a master's from Florida International, Mary Walker is a special ed teacher at Normal Community West High School.

On occasion, Walker invites students to his Bloomington home.

"Anything to make them happy, feel better about themselves. When the kids see someone successful from their color, it gives them hope," he said.

Jenkins puts is simply: "He leads by example."

If you know of a Tri-County Area teacher whose excellence deserves public recognition, send the teacher's name, school, and any supporting statements about the teacher to Jennifer Towery, Neighbors, Journal Star, 1 News Plaza, Peoria, IL 61643; or e-mail jtowery@pjstar.com.

When this story was posted in January 2005, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Story Source: Peoria Journal Sta

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Jamaica; Marriage; Secondary Education



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