Joseph Walter Named Farmington Teacher of the Year – The Durango Herald
Veteran teacher honored for 28 years of dedication and teaching excellence
Joseph Walter, a third-grade teacher at McCormick Elementary, has been named the 2022 Farmington Municipal Schools Teacher of the Year.
Walter was selected from 60 applicants by a committee of four former teachers of the year, according to public information officer Roberto Taboada.
“We all think he’s a wonderful, wonderful teacher and what he does for our schools and for the district is truly amazing,” Taboada said.
“It was a surprise and an honor,” Walter said.
In September, Farmington Municipal Schools Superintendent Cody Diehl visited Walter’s class and announced to his class that Walter had won the honor.
“And I said ‘thank you’ to the one above,” Walter said with a laugh.
Born in Peru, Walter spent his early childhood in South America, where his parents were missionaries for evangelical churches. His first seven years were in Peru, followed by five in Colombia. Whenever his family returned to the United States, they went to Kansas, where Walter has family.
As the youngest of five children, he said, all but one were born in South America. His adolescence was spent in the now famous Medellin, Colombia. His family left in the 1970s, before the city became a drug cartel mecca.
Walter attended a private Christian college before earning his teaching certificate from the University of Minnesota. It was there, at a job fair, that he visited a booth manned by representatives from New Mexico.
“They happened to be from Farmington, and that led to a phone interview and then a job offer,” he said.
His fluency in Spanish landed him a job in a bilingual classroom, and he now makes weekly robocalls in English and Spanish.
He taught fourth grade for his first 11 years and third grade for the rest of his 28 years, all at McCormick Elementary.
“One of the highlights is probably…you know, you end up teaching children of former students,” he said. “It’s nice because in that moment you kind of know the family. You feel like you connect,” Walter said.
His teaching style and philosophy are based on trust.
“It was a real honor to gain the confidence of the little children. You know if they feel comfortable coming to talk to you, and you can tell they respect you, that’s a real plus,” he said. “You know, the only things that have worked for me are calm and respect.”
“When I try to be fancy, or flashy, or mean or really take care of the kids, it just doesn’t work,” he said. “This year, I’m really trying to focus on loving children.”
He recalled how his mother advised him to “pray for them, love them…so a lot of things are taken care of,” he said.
Technology has changed both the teaching and learning process.
“I think they’re more driven by technology, so it might be hard to get into reading the book,” Walter said.
He saw children focusing on games and spending a lot of time in front of a screen rather than outdoor activities. He called it a “complete cultural shift in their home business.” Their focus on technology should be reflected in the classroom.
“I think the biggest challenge for me is catching up. It’s not that bad, we now have a very good program that combines the two,” he said. It combines reading with videos that “really grab their attention”.
Each child is assigned a laptop, which remains in the classroom now that the pandemic has subsided.
“They’re definitely tech-savvy, and I can just give a mission, say open up your computers, go to a website, and start working,” he said.
He said instruction comes with both a book and an online platform. For example, he can start the day with a textbook and then assign a follow-up activity online.
McCormick has bilingual learning, which means students in kindergarten through fifth grade have a classroom taught in both English and Spanish.
“Spanish children are learning and improving their English skills, and English-speaking (speaking) children are being exposed to Spanish,” he said.
Walter and his colleagues are learning a new program – Core Knowledge Language Arts – which is provided by Amplify Education Inc.. and is known as the “science of reading,” Walter said.
Walter received praise from his manager and his peers.
“Mr. Walter took the opportunity to grow professionally and learn new ways to provide excellent teaching in our school,” Principal Lyn White said. great comments regarding his patience and ability to break down teaching into small pieces for his students.We are fortunate to be able to consider Mr. Walter one of the best at McCormick and Farmington Municipal Schools.
To relax, Walter visits friends on weekends and enjoys time in the countryside and hiking. He also likes to share meals with friends and watch the Kansas City Chiefs.
But he also finds joy in the work.
“It’s a little weird, but sometimes with the kids at recess, they’re having fun running around and playing, and you think, ‘That’s really nice.’ I mean, it’s not getting much better.