Snoqualmie Valley Schools Foundation’s High School Educator of the Year is Katelyn Walker, and her classroom is one that would only be found at this grade-level. Walker, the daughter of Jim and Cindy Walker, teaches in the Life Skills class, working with special-needs students to get them ready for life after school.
It’s a career she’s been drawn to since childhood, she said, and one that she pursued at every opportunity. After graduating from Mount Si High School, she attended Central Washington University to earn a degree in psychology and family studies. Then, she went on to the University of Phoenix for her teaching certification and master’s degree in special education.
An Issaquah resident, Walker is in her fourth year with the Snoqualmie Valley School District. Prior to joining the Life Skills program two years ago, she worked as a para-educator for two years at Chief Kanim Middle School.
How did you come to education?
“I knew at a young age that I wanted to work with people with special needs. Growing up, I had a cousin with special needs. Robert and I were close in age and we spent a lot of time together. I loved going on walks and pushing him in his wheelchair.
“During high school, I volunteered at a respite night for parents with kids with special needs and during college I worked at a day center for young adults with special needs in Issaquah.
“I got my undergraduate degree in psychology and family studies from Central Washington University. I got my teaching certification and masters in special education K-12 from University of Phoenix.”
How many students do you see in a day?
“I have 22 Life Skills students and 12 peer tutors that I see throughout the day.”
What do you like about teaching at the high school?
“I love working at the high school level because I’m able to take the skills the students have learned and generalize them in preparation for the students to leave our program and transition to life after high school. I also enjoy taking the students into the community and teaching them how to interact with people outside of the school setting.”
What do your students struggle with the most?
“The ability to be independent, and self-regulation. Advocating for themselves in the school setting as well as the community.”
How would you describe an educator of the year — what qualities would they have?
“Team leader, collaborative, innovative, compassionate, patient, learner, persevering, creative, strong family connection, listener, organized, hard-working, flexible.”
What have you learned from your students?
“I’ve learned just about everything from my students. They’re great! I’ve learned to appreciate and build upon my strengths, that everyone learns in different ways and that we are all capable of learning. My students have taught me to persevere and be flexible when trials arise and to appreciate small gains. They have taught me that there are always new skills to be learning.
“The last thing they have taught me is the importance of loving your job, to laugh every day, and amidst the busy-ness of your schedule, finding something that you really enjoy doing throughout the day.”