Walters named D29 Teacher of the Year
Thirty-one years of dedicated service to students and athletes equaled a big honor for a long-time Williston-Elko educator.
Bernard Walters was named the Williston District 29 Teacher of the Year on Oct. 10 during a special celebration that also honored Kelly Edwards Elementary School Teacher of the Year Alyson Collins and Williston-Elko Middle School Teacher of the Year Samantha Wright. Each teacher of the year was selected by their peers before a group of judges named the district winner.
All three teachers of the year received several gifts, including from Enterprise Bank and First Citizens Bank in Williston. Some of their students also said a few words praising their teachers.
This isn’t the first time that Bernard Walters has been named D29 Teacher of the Year. It’s actually his third.
“After the third time one wonders, is there anything left to accomplish as a teacher? My response is one of student accomplishments, State Championships, Math Competitions, using technology in a non-threatening way, mastery across the board regardless of socio-economic, race or religion,” said Walters.
Walters said “each day is an opportunity for success” and sees his job as someone who points the way.
Students Kendal Myers and Maggie Smith spoke about how Walters has impacted their lives in the classroom and on the tennis court. “He cares for everyone in school,” said Smith.
People should look at weaknesses as opportunities for grace (God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense), he said. “All problems can be solved and will be given the proper time and constraints.”
“There is so much more in our favor if we (educators, parents, administrators and community) would take the time to look,” he said, citing opportunities online, educational tutoring online, and jobs waiting to be filled if only the salary was not put ahead of the value. He said there is also too much time spent on cell phones and not enough spent helping others.
“Mr. Bernard Walters is an exceptional teacher and person. He goes above and beyond to meet the needs of his students and sets high expectations. He never settles for anything less than our students’ best. He makes learning fun and keeps the students engaged during his class. Mr. Walters also strives to teach our students more than academics; he teaches them about being productive citizens who demonstrate excellent character. He is a well-respected member of our school and our community. Congratulations to Mr. Walters for winning this well-deserved award,” said WEHS Principal Alison Brady.
As he goes on 31 years in the education field, he said he is just beginning. “I will go as long as the Lord says,” said Walters, who has spent his entire career at WEHS teaching Algebra 1 and 2, Geometry, Probability and Statistics, AP Calculus AB and BC, and AP Statistics. He is also the tennis coach.
“God is the author and the finisher of our faith, and I can only thank Him and mom and dad, and the educators that have helped shape the young man into what he is today,” said Walters, who also thanked his wife and children.
Collins is a lifelong resident of Williston and attended the same school where she currently teaches.
“I love my town and my school. Being named the K-E Teacher of the Year gives me satisfaction in that my peers can see that I enjoy my work. It’s the icing on the cake,” said Collins.
She has been a teacher for four years, all of which have been at Kelly Edwards. Her first year she worked as a teacher’s assistant in K5, but she has been the art teacher for the last three years.
“I love being an educator because it’s a job that truly makes a difference. I worked for several years after I graduated in human resources and felt that something was missing. I yearned for a job where I made a difference. The Lord led me to Kelly Edwards and I truly feel that the work that I do here is worthwhile and worthy. A day never passes that I don’t feel that I’ve made a positive impact in my students’ lives,” said Collins, who hopes to be at the school for a long time.
Student Quaide Overton said Collins encourages students to use their imaginations and dream big. “She creates a safe place for learning, even if you don’t draw well.”
Samantha Wright has been an educator for 21 years, including the past 18 years in District 29. She has been the middle school’s guidance counselor for the past six years.
Being named WEMS Teacher of the Year “means that I am making a difference in the lives of students and others are taking notice of my efforts. The faculty and staff are the ones that vote for Teacher of the Year, so it means that your peers see the dedication and commitment you invest in students each day,” she said.
Wright became an educator because she is passionate about making a “positive impact” on the lives of students.
“As a counselor, I am allowed the opportunity to assist and motivate students with their academic, social, and emotional needs. I truly enjoy seeing light bulbs come on when students grasp concepts that are being taught. It is important to me to build relationships with students and for students to know that I love them. Once students know that you love them and are invested in them, they will work hard for you,” she said.
Student Amarionna Smith wrote a poem about Wright that described how caring, helpful and friendly the guidance counselor is. “I dream that others will be successful. I am Ms. Wright,” concluded the poem.
Wright started her educational career at Allendale Primary School where she taught for three years. She then moved to District 29 where she taught second grade at Kelly Edwards and later became the TAG coordinator and teacher for grades 3-8 from 2004 to 2008. After obtaining her master’s degree, Wright became a counselor and has worked in each of the three schools but now solely works at the middle school.