Dr. Laurie Walters

State and City of Residence:
Los Angeles, CA

Job Description: 
1st grade teacher

Why do you work in education?
I work in education because I love to help children learn. I wanted to be a teacher ever since I was 5 years old. The students inspire me to always want to do my best to prepare them for the future and for the present too. I became interested in learning that I have a voice in how educational policy impacts classrooms around the country about 5 years ago. Even after being in the profession for 30+ years I never felt I could have an impact on a larger spectrum. My classroom was always my arena and I give my life each and every year to guarantee that the students in my classroom get the best. Though the National fellowship and my ties with Educators 4 Excellence I have learned my voice can have larger impact throughout the state and country. 

Tell us about something that you have done in education that you feel has made or will make a big difference for your community? 
The largest thing I have ever done is found The New Open World Academy, a K - 12 school, with a team of seven educators and parents! Teachers and administrators have autonomy to create a curriculum that is appropriate for the student population attending the school. Prior to this endeavor I worked at a traditional school for 28 years and was tired of having to follow a script to teach students to read, with only one curriculum resource for all students and all I saw many students not learning to read. New Open World Academy is a place where parents are always welcome and ensure the graduation of all students. It has been a challenging adventure and we have achieved many of our goals, which provides me a sense of satisfaction. The graduation rate has improved, our test scores went way up by 42 points in the first 2 years we were open. The largest change has been that most students like coming to school and our dropout rate has decreased.

What’s your favorite part about being an America Achieves Fellow?
The new friends that I have made with like-minded educators from across the country has been inspiring. Meeting state and federal policy makers has been a great experience!. The learning how to be effective in having my voice heard throughout education has been a large improvement in my life. I think teachers need to remember that we are in classroom therefore we know the best what is needed to make education the best that it can be.

If you could change just one thing about our current education system, what would it be?
The one thing I would change about the education system is how teachers are evaluated so that we can attract the best teachers to serve our students. I believe that the teacher tenure system really needs to be revamped so that it is not always last in first asked to leave the system. To earn tenure there should be a system where you have 5 years and evaluation, classes to improve, and willingness to learn should all be considered to determine if a teacher should stay at the school.

Anything else you’d like to share?
This Fellowship has allowed me to grow in unimaginable ways. I have learned that as a teacher I have the most credibility to share my beliefs about education with policymakers. I want to thank America Achieves for opening up many doors that I never knew existed.

What’s your dream vacation?
My dream vacation is going on an African safari. I love wild animals and to be up close and personal with any of them would be one of the most exciting things I could do. I also would love to see what it is like in different parts of Africa to live and talk to the natives.

What is one fun fact that most people don’t know about you?
I would give almost anything in the world to meet Barbra Streisand in person and have her sing Evergreen while I was her only person around.

What is your other favorite thing to do (besides education, of course!)?
I love theater of any kind. I love to go to New York to see plays on Broadway. Live theater is so exciting to me because I enjoy watching others share their talent and stories. The stage is a great way to hear a wonderful story that may never be retold.

What is your biggest inspiration?
My biggest Inspiration in my life at the present time is a 3rd grade teacher at my school.  I feel she is the best teacher and cares about her kids more than anyone I have ever met. She is very creative in her thinking of ways to get resources for her students. She is inventive and offers her students love caring and a wonderful academic curriculum.

If a song played every time you walked into a room, what would that song be?
The song that I would like to play when I walk into the room is "Children Will Listen" by Barbra Streisand. It tells us how to be a role model for the children we are bringing up in the world in which we live.

What’s the best thing a student ever said to you?
The best thing a student ever told me was that because of me he made it in the world in which we live. My belief that he could succeed was the key that turned his life around. He came from a life of poverty and I helped him become a successful businessman that has helped empower his entire family to rise above poverty.

What is one book every educator must read?
The book I think that all teachers should read is "Savage Inequalities" by Jonathan Kozol. This is a book that looks at school inequalities and how students are mistreated in many different situations. Mr. Kozol gets into schools all over the country and finds out how they really work. He addresses how schools in many different areas around the country are treated unfairly and how we must learn to do things differently to improve things in education. I have read this book 4 times and learn something new every time I read it that I can apply to my own life.  Must continue to work to close the achievement gaps and help all students live up to their potential.