Sumter Intermediate School Teacher Mariah Walker Shares Experiences Teaching

Published 4:45 pm Tuesday, November 7, 2023

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Sumter Intermediate School teacher Mariah Walker gave an interview on her experiences as a teacher. She teaches two classes, with a total of 36 students.

“This is my second year teaching 4th grade. This is my first year teaching only Math and Science. I have only taught one class, all subjects, all day in the past. I taught 2nd grade one year and Kindergarten another year in Denver, Colorado. I moved to Americus in 2017, and I taught 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade at Furlow before taking two years off after the Pandemic. I have now returned to teaching and am at Sumter Intermediate.

I returned back to school to finish my bachelor’s degree in education when my oldest started Kindergarten. I had escaped Domestic Violence and suddenly found myself a single mother of three young children. While living in transitional housing, I graduated from the University of Colorado-Denver. I am educated and experienced in Social Emotional Learning, Culturally Responsive, and Trauma-Informed teaching.

I knew that it was life skills like confidence and perseverance that helped me rise out of adversity. I knew that my education gave me critical thinking and problem-solving skills that enabled me to seek out resources and give my own children an opportunity to thrive. I needed to make my story mean something. I recognized in myself a strength in building relationships with the kids also struggling in similar circumstances.

I truly believe education is the key to opening up opportunities and choices in life. I hope that as a teacher, I can guide students to a love of learning and belief in themselves so that no matter what life throws at them they will have tools (or a “bag of tricks” as I call it in my classroom) to persevere and solve problems with confidence and empathy.”

Walker talked about moments she found particularly rewarding.

“My favorites are the “lightbulb moments” when a student finally gets a concept and can ‘feel that success.’”

She also talked about struggles she faced as a teacher.

“There are literally not enough hours in the day to make me feel like I am both a successful teacher and a mom. It is a challenge to teach grade-level content to so many students who are way below grade level. I am constantly researching and reflecting, along with my colleagues, to best support these students. Every night and every weekend, I am working on schoolwork. I am “On” every day, all day long. I deal with intense behaviors and students with very high walls that I need to get through. It is a challenge to not always feel supported or respected by the families and community. My own children come second to my students all the time.

Children need to know how much you care before they will care how much you know. All of our students are struggling in some area right now and the challenge is how to best love them so we CAN teach them.”

Walker did note some things she was excited to be teaching her students.

“I am super excited to be teaching kids that Math “trains our brains” to think critically and solve problems that can be applied to life. I am also excited to be teaching kids that they have the power to make choices in their own lives and that all choices have consequences. Many students feel out of control over most areas of their lives, but when they successfully solve a multi-step math problem, it gives them a sense of pride that they can apply to solve other life problems like social skills.”

Walker also highlighted a new program.

“Sumter Intermediate is implementing PBIS (Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports). This is a program that leans away from highlighting negative behaviors and instead recognizes positive behaviors. Many students exhibit attention-seeking behaviors. PBIS in schools helps students learn that they get positive attention and support when they make positive behavior choices. The goal is that students are empowered for their positive choices and then will continue to make better choices.”

She had a final message to share with readers.

“Teachers work very hard and love ALL your kids a lot!! It is true that it takes a village to raise healthy kids. Trust the teachers. Model the behaviors you want to see in your kids. Ask for help if needed. Together, we really can change the world for the better if we teach our kids well.”