• Doretta A. Walker: education as community endeavor

    St. Louis American


    Posted: Thursday, September 13, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 10:22 am, Thu Sep 13, 2012.

    "I was excited,” Doretta A. Walker, a retired administrative coordinator for Supplemental Educational Services at the St. Louis Public School District, said about receiving a 2012 Excellence in Education Award from the St. Louis American Foundation. "I never thought I would win anything like that."


    Before she retired in June 2010, Walker dedicated 39 years of service to the SLPS system. As administrative coordinator for Supplemental Educational Services (SES), she connected parents and students to tutoring services in reading and math. These services were provided by the SLPS or outside providers like Sylvan Learning Center.


    SES is a state and federal program for SLPS students and those from charter schools who underscore on the Missouri Assessment Performance (MAP) Test. She was also coordinator for the SLPS Parents Support Specialist Liaisons.


    Despite her retirement, she still finds time to volunteer with SLPS once a month.

    Walker said several elementary school teachers inspired her goals to teach.


    "I admired the way they carried themselves and the way they taught," she said. "They made sure we learned."


    She recalled how one math teacher at Sumner High School always kept the word "think" on the blackboard.


    "When he called on you to answer and you didn't respond, he'd take his fist and hit the word," she said. "We'd jump out of our seats."


    She earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville and a Master’s in Education from the National College of Education in Chicago. She’s a certified Reading Specialist from Harris-Stowe State University and pursued further studies at Southeast Missouri State University.


    "Walker was a substitute teacher in college. She taught 3rd grade students at Marquette Visual and Performing Arts Middle School, which is now Metro Academic and Classical High School.


    “I found out working as a sub, I really wanted to teach," she said. "I just fell in love with it, and the children responded so well to me.”


    As the years have passed, Walker noticed one crucial difference between parents today and those of the past.


    “Those parents knew the teachers and principals,” she said. “They would work in the schools as teacher’s aides.” Today, she said, “you don’t have parents coming into the schools. You don’t have parents in the homes seeing to the children coming to school.”


    She mentioned that there are a large majority of children forced into adult roles before their time. There also is a lack of community involvement in children's education.


    "Education of children must be a community endeavor," Walker said.


    She zeroed in on negative environmental factors like gangs and drugs.


    "Kids are going with their peers because they're afraid something will happen," Walker said. "They have all kinds of outside things to take their minds off education."


    She doesn't believe that students in SLPS are set up for failure. "There are a lot key people, myself included, who believe there are children in SLPS who can learn and want to learn," she said.


    She emphatically stated that "there are positive things going on in SLPS but it doesn't get out in the media as much as the negativity."


    Walker loves to work with children and vows never to give up on them. She advised her students that "there's no such thing as ‘I can't learn.’"


    She said, "You drop the ‘t’ and you can."


    Walker takes pride in her former students, especially those who follow in her vocational footsteps. Bruce Green, principal at Carnahan High School of the Future and adjunct faculty at Harris-Stowe State University, congratulates his former teacher and  present mentor. Green was a student of Walker's at Marquette Visual and Performing Arts Middle School.


    "In having her class, she always used positive reinforcement to re-direct me and help me stay on track," said Green said, who was a 2010 Salute to Excellence in Education Award recipient. "She was always in my corner."


    He thanks Walker for her effort. He said, "Because without people like her in the SLPS, I wouldn't have made it through."