Meet Walking Classroom Ambassador Grit Walther, who teaches fifth grade at Anthony Traina Elementary School in California. Grit has worked in education for almost 15 years. Originally from Germany, she worked as a teacher for half a year in Germany, then moved to the United States. Here, she earned another teaching degree and worked four years as a classroom aide and substitute teacher. Currently in her tenth year as a classroom teacher, Grit has been using The Walking Classroom for three years.
What are your memories of yourself when you were in fifth grade?
I remember sitting in class, and looking longingly outside because I loved to play outdoors.
What led you to become an educator?
I always played “school” with my stuffed animals. I just loved learning and exploring different topics. Because I was not really a straight-A student, I had to work for my grades. Still, I enjoyed doing homework and taking tests since I was able to show what I knew or learned (just like Hermione Granger in Harry Potter!). In middle school, I became an after-school sport trainer for first through fourth grades. During seventh and eighth grade, my school allowed me to be a substitute teacher when no teachers where available. I did not just play around; I tried to really teach. (In my home country, we did not have a substitute teacher system. Classes just stayed unsupervised or were sent home if no teacher was available or, like in my case, older students covered the classes.)
Every child can learn. It is up to the teacher to provide different modalities to reach each child. Providing learning materials is not enough; children must be hungry for knowledge and curious every day.
What is your favorite content area/topic to teach? Why?
I don’t really have a favorite subject. This is why I refuse to become a single subject teacher. I love to intertwine all subjects, and to show students how they are connected. I love to teach mini-lessons as the topics come up. For example, in the middle of a science lesson about photosynthesis, we did root words and word analysis, as well as a short lesson on plural forms where we changed “f” to “v”, like in “leaf” to “leaves”. I believe this way students connect the content better with the daily application of it.
What is your favorite podcast or Walking Classroom memory and why?
I don’t really have a favorite podcast. I love to listen along every time we walk because I will hear and remember new details.
As for my favorite Walking Classroom memory, one year I had a student with a medical condition, which made it risky to leave school grounds. As a class, we came up with ideas on what we would do if something happened during the walk because the students did not want their classmate to miss out. The student was very thankful and walked happily with us. We never had to set our plan into action!
What is your best teaching memory?
I love it every time students get that “lightbulb” effect. “Now I get it!” is my favorite blurting out. I just have so many days when I stand in front of the class and feel thankful for my job.
What advice would you give to a new teacher?
Be open to experiences from other teachers. A good teacher “borrows and steals” ideas. This way, you have a big tool box to better respond to students’ needs. Also, change routines when students become restless in the classroom and always keep students curious. Don’t be afraid to try something new or to go out of your comfort zone. It may not work, but that is okay! Just try again.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I love to do large puzzles, camp in the mountains, and spend time at the ocean.
Name something you’d like to cross off your bucket list.
I am not sure on that question. My husband and I just fulfilled a dream by visiting Alaska. At this point, I simply enjoy life with my husband and, from far, watch my two children become successful college students and young adults. Still, I would love to travel back to Alaska beyond the Arctic Circle!