"For all of us here at Kingston, we're definitely proud of Mrs. Walker, she's part of the family," said Principal Stefany Howard. "... I've seen first hand her tenacious spirit to learn and teach and help others. She is just one go-getter. She's dedicated to each child and the teachers around her."
When Walker isn't spending time with her 17 kids at KES, she said she enjoys spending time with her husband, Tony, and daughters, Kayla and Ashlyn, who, respectively, are in ninth grade at Woodland High School and in seventh grade at Woodland Middle School.
A Bartow County native, a Georgia Bulldogs fan and outdoors enthusiast, Walker graduated from Cartersville High School in 1998, receiving her associate's degree from Floyd College in May 2004 and her bachelor's degree from the University of West Georgia in May 2006.
Walker followed her dreams of becoming a teacher while taking on multiple responsibilities and facing some emotional hardships early on. Although she "began life at a very young age," Walker balanced her life with a demanding academic career.
"My children were 2-and-a-half and 3 when I was enrolled in college and then my mom passed away," Walker said. "After she passed away I withdrew from college and put it on the back burner until my girls were old enough to go to school."
She cites the efforts and achievements of her grandfather and well-known local educator, the late Earl Cunningham, as a major inspiration in her aspiring to be a teacher.
"Growing up, my grandfather was a coach at Cass High School for years and the old Cass High stadium was actually named after him and he was probably the biggest influential factor in me becoming a teacher," Walker said. "I grew up watching him and was just inspired."
Kingston Elementary is designated as a Title I school and receives federal funding due to the amount of economically disadvantaged students enrolled.
Although some Title I students may face economic hardships outside of school, Walker said she makes sure students never do without in her classroom, whether it's supplemental teaching tools, school supplies, or in some cases, extra clothing.
"A lot of my paycheck goes to my classroom, if my kids need something I get it," she said. "Anything I can do to make learning fun and that [students] enjoy, I'm going to do it."
Beyond the classroom, Walker makes the effort to attend at least one after school activity of her students,' such as a baseball game or a recital.
Walker also said because often there is low parental involvement and transiency in Title I schools, she does everything she can to provide students with a foundation and to reach out to parents. For example, sending home weekly newsletters for parents and having a web page on the KES website, which can be found on www.bartow.k12.ga.us.
Since the beginning of the year the site has received more than 1,700 hits.
"I always greet my students at the door smiling," Walker said. "A [school] custodian will say, 'Mrs. Walker, are you ever unhappy, I always see you smiling,' and I say, 'I'm just hoping it's contagious and it rubs off on other people.'
"... Kids can pick up anything. Whatever vibe you're letting off, they're going to pick up on it and so I just try to have that enthusiasm and that passion and that desire and once I have it and the students have it, it's contagious."
She said providing this foundation is what drew her to working with younger children.
"We're trying to build a mansion, the whole framework," Walker said. "... You're laying that foundation for the rest of their life, for their college careers and careers in general."
She said her intrinsic award from teaching comes when students can show her what they have learned, providing an example.
"I have had a student who's so far behind, he came from a different system and transfers a lot ... and we have strived to just do some basic things," Walker said. "The other day we were doing a lesson with fractions making a [Play-Doh] cake.
"He sat there and cut the pie into fourths, and then he showed me how he could do it in two-eighths and when I first got him he couldn't even count to eight and for him to just sit there and work ... and say, 'that's two-eighths, Mrs. Walker' and he reaches out and hugs me and is excited as I am ... it's indescribable to tell you how it feels when that happens."