Teacher Spotlight appears periodically in the Schools section of the Town Crier. It features interviews with local educators about their experiences in teaching. This week we feature Miki Walker from Ventana School in Los Altos.
Q: How did you get into teaching?
A: I got a job during college working at a preschool in Cupertino. At the time I was undecided about my major. A few weeks after starting my job at the preschool, I knew exactly what I wanted to pursue for a major, and from there I’ve continued to enjoy every aspect of working in this field.
My mother always tells people that when I was younger, she used to be my “student” and that I would teach her vocabulary words that I pulled from the Richard Scarry books. According to her, I was very strict about spelling.
Q: What is your favorite part of teaching?
A: I love the creativity involved. It involves applying best practices, research, your students’ interests and style of learning, as well as your own personality to the way you teach.
Q: What is your favorite subject to teach? To learn about?
A: Within teaching, I love mathematics. I struggled during my elementary school years with math, and I think it pushes me to remember why I struggled. When I was at school, we had timed math tests, and manipulatives were our fingers and only that. Today, there’s so much research to support new teaching strategies. Every child, regardless of their learning style, has the opportunity and right to learn in a way that makes the most sense to them.
Q: What do you like to do when you are not teaching?
A: I enjoy being outdoors. After living in England for six years, I returned to California with a deeper appreciation for warm weather. Living in the Bay Area, especially, offers so many beautiful places to visit that are only a stone’s throw away.
Q: Who was your favorite teacher and what made him/her your favorite?
A: Ms. Philips, my kindergarten teacher. I still have a postcard that she sent me one year. It meant so much to me when I was younger, and still does! It reminds me of how special she made me feel by taking the time out of her vacation to write me a postcard.
Q: What is your most memorable teaching moment?
A: The one memorable teaching moment that I always think back on was during my student-teaching assignment. It was one of those moments where you tell yourself, “I love this job!”
I was working with a child who had just read an entire book by himself. Every page he turned, he seemed to get more and more excited, and when we got to the end, he flipped it back to the front and started again. After I received my credential and went back to substitute at his school a year later, he remembered me, and more importantly he remembered that moment as well as I did. The book he read was “Ira Sleeps Over” (by Bernard Waber), and I have always kept a copy in my class as a reminder of that moment.
Q: What do you find most challenging about teaching?
A: Saying goodbye is always hard for me at the end of the year, but then I meet the new class of children coming into kindergarten and remind myself of all the new and exciting possibilities this new set of students will bring.
When you spend an entire year watching your class grow, experience their first loose tooth or listen to them read their first book, you can’t help but feel proud of all their accomplishments.
Q: What is the most rewarding aspect of teaching?
A: Again, it’s watching your students grow over the year. Being part of their school experience and providing a learning environment that encourages them to think and value their ideas – and most importantly value their selves, differences and all.