Like a performer on stage, Robert Walters, 24, spent the last school year entertaining and engaging students in his U.S. government class. A first-year teacher at Lanier High School, he is passionate about civics and young enough to relate that passion to his students.
A graduate of Northwest Rankin High School, Walters went to Mississippi State to pursue a degree in criminal justice. His mother, Linda Walters, an advanced-placement government teacher at Murrah, was a major factor in his decision to teach.
"I had always been around teaching. It runs in the family," he says. "I like being in front of people, and I like government. All I do all day is talk to people about government."
Walters goes out of his way to make sure the students take something away from his class. He discusses issues relevant to their communities and broaches real-life situations. At the beginning of last year, he brought in a representative from the American Civil Liberties Union to register eligible students to vote. At the end of the year, he asked his students to write their own sample bills to learn about the legislative process. Their class periods became congressional sessions, in which students and teacher followed the process to the letter.
"Being involved in a hands-on way really gives them ownership over the idea," he says. "It was amazing the things they came up with: Bills on gay marriage, high school dropouts, abortion and gun laws."
Walters, who has played football and basketball, also coaches the soccer team at Lanier. There hadn't been one for two years.
"We all learned together," he says. "They hadn't played; I hadn't played. It was a rebuilding year. Just being able to have the kids feel that sense of team each week and come to practice, even during basketball season, was amazing."
Recently, Walters won the James Madison Memorial Fellowship, which is awarded annually to current and future middle and high-school teachers for graduate studies in American history, political science, teaching or education. Through the fellowship, Walters plans to attend Mississippi College to obtain his master's in social science with an emphasis in political science. Then, next summer he will travel to Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., to take classes in constitutional governmentall while continuing to engage a new batch of students.
"Every day is an adventure with 120 kids. But at the end of the day, when you can see the kids are engaged and enjoying it, that's what makes it fun. That's what makes it worth it.
I'm more than willing to take credit for this photo (since it is a good portrait), but I didn't actually take it.
- Roy Adkins
Sounds like a really great guy.
Hi Roy! I took this photo, but I am not offended to see your name by it, I really like your work, and thanks for the compliment!
- Nate Glenn