Baldwin High School Teacher of the Year Felexia Walker had every intention of going into the medical field when she was in college. Her mother was a nurse and Walker had an intimate understanding and interest in the biological rhythms of the body. But her grandmother and aunts were all educators, and so Walker decided it was a good idea to pick up teaching skills and certification while in her fourth year of college. “Because of my major being biology,” she said, “moving Into science education was really seamless… I spent a lot of time with my tutors, and what I realized was that teaching is an art.”
Walker really saw a difference between the way that teaching was done in the K-12 system in Washington County where she grew up and in the large schooling environment of the University of Georgia. In a smaller, thirty-student classroom, teachers have the ability to form foundational relationships with their students as opposed to two-hundred-seat lecture halls. “I was a straight-A student in high school,” Walker said, “I didn’t see my first C until I got to college.” Walker wanted to step in and fill that education gap.
Discovering the relational aspect of teaching appealed to Walker, “professors are geniuses when it comes to the content, but the teaching part of it is sometimes not there, especially at the college level, so I wanted to become a part of the teaching process.” That relational aspect is all the more important when it comes to a subject like Biology, which is more about retention and application.
The way that Walker is able to navigate students through that process is by doing labs and utilizing real-world applications during her instruction. “If they can connect the subject to what they see every day, they have a better chance of that retention, and being able to apply it later on.”
The COVID-19 Pandemic is a primary example of real-world applications of biological science, but during the pandemic, Walker was teaching environmental science to split classrooms, both virtual and in-person. It was much harder for students to get real-world applications of environmental science because they were locked down in their homes. “I made allowances everywhere I could,” Walker said, “I would stay here in the afternoon to try to meet them individually, whether they wanted to meet me in the building during the day or virtually.”
“If they can connect the subject to what they see every day, they have a better chance of that retention, and being able to apply it later on.”
In the wake of returning after the pandemic, Walker has seen many of her students hit hard because they haven’t had the in-class experience needed for that retention and application. She is most excited to get her students back to full-time in-person learning for the ‘22-’23 academic school year. And despite having already won Teacher of the Year for Baldwin High School, Walker says that the only person she’s looking to outdo this year is herself. It’s the kind of task that only Baldwin High School’s Teacher of the Year could achieve, and Felexia Walker feels up to the challenge.