Linda Dalton Walker is the kind of teacher who doesn’t mind if students color outside of the lines. What matters to this veteran educator is if her students can express their knowledge of all parts of the curriculum with bold, broad strokes.
In her color-splashed classroom at Ridgecrest Elementary, science lessons about animal species roll into time spent creating collages of all kinds of creatures with photos spliced from National Geographic magazines. On another day, students are asked to illustrate stories that they’ve written using words from vocabulary lists. Then, those pages are photographed and turned into short movies.
Indeed, it seems the ways Walker infuses science, technology and the arts are endless. “I like to integrate technology whenever I can with art,” says Walker, who has spent six of her 18 years as an educator at the Cottonwood Heights school.
And it’s for this reason and many others, to be sure that Walker last month was named the Utah Educator of the Year by the Artistic Resource for Teachers and Students, Inc. (A.R.T.S., Inc.) Walker, who was Ridgecrest’s 2011 Teacher of the Year, was lauded at the non-profit’s 50th anniversary awards gala at the Grand America Hotel. She received a plaque for the honor, which she said was entirely unexpected.
“My son tells me that it’s kind of like the Emmy Awards for teaching,” Walker says with a laugh.
Parents of her students are effusive with praise: “My son has demonstrated artistic talent from a very early age, but he did not have an opportunity to receive specific instruction until he was in Mrs. Walker’s class,” wrote one parent in conjunction with the award. “Mrs. Walker has embedded multiple opportunities for students to explore their artistic abilities. … She made sure that the art projects were embedded in multiple contexts, including science and history.”
A.R.T.S., Inc. is a 51-year-old Utah arts-education group that focuses on bolstering fine arts programs in the classroom. Supporters include teachers, artists, business and community leaders, school district fine arts curriculum directors and parents. According to its Web site, the organization’s goal is to achieve excellence in all academic subjects through performance in music, theatre, dance, visual arts and creative writing/listening.
Walker says a poem by Rumi, a 13th century mystic, exemplifies how she feels about teaching and art. “Sometimes,” she says, “they are intertwined, and one creative aspect feeds off the other.”
Today, like every other day, we wake up empty â¨and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study â¨and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument. Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.