Now entering her fifteenth year of teaching, Northfield Elementary kindergarten teacher Caleigh Walker has thoroughly enjoyed her teaching career.
“I remember as a girl going with my mom to her classroom and helping out,” said Walker. “I knew that I always wanted to become a teacher. Originally, I thought I was going to be a sixth grade teacher, but I had a field experience in a Kindergarten classroom and I loved it.”
Walker graduated from Scottsbluff High School in 2000 and earned her Bachelor’s degree from Nebraska Wesleyan University in 2004 and her Master’s degree from Olivet Nazarene University. What brought her back to Gering was a job opening.
“My mom had mentioned that there were positions opening up and we had received the grant for Reading Mastery program. It was a great opportunity for me to come back and hopefully apply.”
She started out teaching Kindergarten in 2004 at Lincoln Elementary. Although, because the school needed another first grade teacher, she decided to fill that position for a period of time, later switching back to kindergarten. Walker transferred to Northfield Elementary in 2013, now teaching there for six years.
“I was asked to move over. When my old principal, George Schlothauer, took a new position elsewhere, they needed a principal [at Lincoln]. My mom happened to be the one that was moved over there.”
What inspired her to become a teacher was both of her parents.
“Growing up, my parents were educators. My mom was a Kindergarten teacher for years and my dad was a middle school Social Studies teacher. I come from a family of teachers and education.”
Aside from teaching, Walker was also the cross country coach of the Gering Cross Country team. She started in 2004, the same year she started teaching.
“Dave Nash was the head coach at the time and I started helping as a volunteer and then became an assistant coach.” After his retirement, she became the girls head coach and also coached distance for Jr. High track.
Walker had a passion for running, as she ran cross country and track in high school and college.
“I learned a ton from my previous high school, college coaches and father who coached cross country and track at Scottsbluff. I remember as a little girl going to races with my dad and watching his meets so running has always been a passion of mine.”
Because she was starting a family, she decided to quit coaching.
Her day typically consists of planning and figuring out what she will teach within the curriculum.
“When I get here in the morning, I make sure curriculum is set out and ready to go. In my mind, I go through the day, make sure my schedule is up and sometimes you have to go with the flow because things happen unexpectedly. I do make sure copies are made for projects and art projects are ready to go.”
What Walker finds challenging is meeting the needs of diverse learners and more time for unstructured play.
“It’s a challenge, but it’s a good challenge. We have a diverse group of students. Each one is unique in their learning abilities – not all are on the same plane.”
Granted the diverse group of kids, she enjoys watching each and every one of them grow.
“I student taught in a second grade classroom and had a really good experience at the school I was at, and the Kindergarten position opened up and that’s what I took. Kindergarten and first grade are a fun age. You see a lot of growth over the year and that’s fun to watch.”
One of her goals for her students is not only for them to grow in the classroom, but to also grow and succeed in life.
“We really try hard to work on them being good people. Academics is big too, of course, but being nice and being a good citizen in general [is important].”
As a person, Walker can easily say that she has grown from when she started until where she is now.
“Through teaching, you get more knowledgeable as the years go on. I feel like I’ve become a more patient person.”