Diane\'s Blog

Marty Walker

Dear Mrs. Ravitch,
It is after midnight, and I am tired from the day’s activities, but I just had to write to you after reading your wonderful insightful article in the Dallas Morning News‘ Points section of Sunday’s paper. Please permit me to introduce myself: I am Mrs. Marty Walker, a 40-year classroom English teacher. I retired in 2004 after 32 years of teaching high school English–mostly English IV and AP English IV. I was department chair for almost 20 years. I taught for 24 years in the Pleasant Grove community of Dallas–it is a lower socio-economic area in the southeast area. I have been substituting for English teacher friends for the past seven years at W. T. White Highs School here in Dallas.
I am a supporter and past participant (for two summers) of the Dallas Institute’s Teachers Academy. I wanted so to attend the meeting/s when you were to speak, but I was unable to, so I was so pleased to read your ideas on “a bold new vision” for DISD schools and superintendent search. I am also a charter member of The Athena Foundation, another teaching oasis, founded by Dr. Dona Gower.
In 1989 I was so discouraged with all of the paper work and extra administrative duties required of teachers. I was really ready to quit the profession (had started in 1976) and sell Mary Kay make-up! I heard about the Dallas Teachers Academy, applied and went that summer. There I met the best teacher I ever sat under–Dr. Louise Cowan and also teaching with her, Dr. Dona Gower. Dr. Larry Allums was also one of my great teachers and Claudia, a participant, who would later become his wife. My life and chosen profession were changed forever!! Dr. Cowan said two words to me, after an hour’s interview in which I expressed my frustration with bureaucracy and my real desire to teach–“then teach!” It was as if my chains fell off. I went on to teach until 2004–retiring from H. Grady Spruce High School. My two summers at The Academy restored to my heart the JOY OF LEARNING–AND THE JOY OF TEACHING! My passion was restored. (I had the joy of speaking at Dr. Cowan’s 80th birthday, and now she is abut 94!) That passion has never left me.
Dr. Cowan and Dr. Gower nominated me for the Texas Outstanding Teacher of the Humanities Award in 1991, and I received Honorable Mention. In 1995-96 I was named Dallas ISD “Golden Apple Teacher of the Year Award” representing over 9,000 teachers. In 1999 I was named one of 10 Outstanding High School Teachers in Texas by Univ. of Texas. I was also awarded the Dallas Rotarian’s “Service Above Self” Award, and in 2004 received the Texas Outstanding Teacher of Humanities Award. I also received a $3,000 scholarship from the English Speaking Union to study at Oxford in 1998. In total I have won over $13,000 in teaching awards. My inspiration had been reborn for teaching, and I wanted to be the best teacher ever!
Now, the reason I have noted this is to give you some idea of my teaching background, experience, and awards. I have served on state and local textbook committees for Language Arts through the years. I was wooed by HIllcrest High School’s (one of our more prestigious schools) parents to come and teach their children. Highland Park H. S. called me three times to teach there. However, I never felt a peace about leaving my campus, where I taught kids with no newspaper in the home and students who were often literally working to put food on the table. The good news is that I had students to successfully pass the AP exam; many went on to attend prestigious colleges and universities. Many have become teachers!
I had such a passion and love for my students. I felt I was really making a difference. But in the years preceding my retirement, the students became increasingly disrespectful and apathetic. It was not uncommon for students to pass our doors, as we had to encourage them to tuck in their shirts, and their response would be “F—you, you bitch!” I would, of course, call for a principal, who would try to catch them. If caught, they would be put out for a few days and then back again. Our school was assigned a 33-year old principal with no high school experience, who spent most of his time flirting with the girls. Discipline ran amuck.
I knew in October 2003 that I would be retiring…I developed Graves Disease (Dr. Louise Cowan has it, too). My doctor said it was brought on by stress. My principal did not concern himself as to the reasons I was leaving my beloved teaching profession and my school.
When I received all of these before- mentioned awards, there was not one call from my school board member or no recognition from the neighboring Chamber of Commerce. They were noted in the DISD publications, but the community seemingly knew nothing of my contributions. When I retired, The Dallas Morning News had a write-up about the disrespect which affected my retirement. Dr, Mike Moses, who was then superintendent, called me four times and told me he would place me in another school if I would stay. The principal remained there and 33 master teachers left during his short time in the building. He is no longer even in education. Other principals have been ineffective at Spruce also. Most recently, there have been some improvements, but the school is at the lowest rating on TAKS, the state-mandated test—which I hate!!!!.
Yes, we must hire a passionate educator as our new superintendent–not “a corporate leader.” Please keep telling your story. The teaching to the test has killed many a teacher’s creativity and joy in teaching! Our society must re-discover respect for the teacher and the knowledge he/she can impart to our young!
My heart is still so full of love for teenagers and literature/grammar. I have three filing cabinets in my garage and bins of teaching materials, which I cannot bring myself to remove. One of the former deans we had told me to “trash” all of my novel units, etc. I almost cried when she told me that!! Of course I did not do it.
Thank you for listening to my heart. I agree so much with your views. Teaching for the test is killing America’s education. Yes, we must have accountability, but not forced robotic teaching methods.
I had a letter to the editor published in the DMN on Friday, September 23, entitled “Spruce up Spruce Again.” If you wish to read it, Google” Mrs. Marty Walker, letters to the editor, Dallas Morning News, September 23,” and it should come up.
If I can ever be of help to you, please contact me. Keep proclaiming your views–they are right on!!
Mrs. Marty Walker