Darren Walker and why the transformation of education begins with teachers

‘A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.’ – Luke 6:40

 

The theme for World Teachers’ Day on Friday 28 October 2022 is ‘Hats off to teachers’. This is a fitting theme considering the disruptions our educators have faced throughout the past two years of the pandemic and their ongoing support to the lives of students and their families (The Sector, 2022). Excelsia College is proud to see its education graduates making a positive impact on the lives of children within early childhood, primary and secondary school settings. Take Darren Walker, Graduate Diploma of Education (Secondary) alumnus, for example. Darren is the upper school principal and former mathematics teacher at Cair Paravel Latin School, a Christian school in Topeka, Kansas. For Darren, teaching is a lifelong process, and this is an attitude that is fostered in his school’s students. ‘We don’t want our students to just learn what they need to do so they can graduate and go to college and get a job. This is about teaching kids to love learning.’

 

In his role as principal, Darren is passionate about transforming teachers into the best educators they can be and he trains teachers how to educate more effectively. ‘As a principal, I consider it my job to make it easier for my teachers to do their job, that’s my number one goal and when I can do that, I have no desire to do anything else.’ Darren always had a calling to teaching but he took a detour on this journey there. ‘After initially starting out to be a mathematics teacher, I felt the Lord change my direction and I went to law school and practised in the field for 15 years.’

 

It was at a Christian Schools Conference in Sydney in 2011 that Darren saw advertising for the then Wesley Institute’s (now Excelsia College’s) education programs, which piqued his interest. When he found out he could complete the majority of his studies remotely and in his own time, Darren was sold on the course and commenced in 2012. ‘I’m a self-paced and voracious learner so online learning is a really good fit for me. I joked with a couple of people that I was working full time and spending the whole weekend doing a week’s worth of Excelsia to get it all submitted and head back to work on Monday!’ Despite studying remotely, Darren still felt supported by his lecturers. ‘I always felt if I needed something or had a question that they were always accessible. Given my background, I found staff to be very helpful and solve the problems that needed solving.’

 

Close-knit relationships and open communication between staff and students have influenced the way Darren engages with his students. ‘As a teacher, one of the verses I find to be particularly important is Luke 6:40 which says, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.”’ Darren continues, ‘As teachers, we don’t just impart information to students. A teacher, whether intentionally or not, demonstrates to their students how to become like them and, God willing, forms virtue in their students’ hearts. That’s why a close relationship between a teacher and a student is really important and, in my opinion, indispensable when it comes to successful teaching. I see that at Excelsia and in the desire that a lot of the lecturers have to be well engaged with their students.’

 

For Darren, the Christian framework at Excelsia was also a key reason for wanting to study there. ‘A lot of my undergraduate and graduate work wasn’t in a Christian context, so I really appreciate the solid Christian world view that pervades everything that Excelsia does. As I have gone into Christian education, it’s important to me to have an education that has a Christian world view behind all the theory we confront.’ Darren also enjoyed the broad cross-cultural mix of students which opened opportunities for him to meet different kinds of people. ‘The cohorts are fairly small so I had the opportunity to really get to know people and most importantly get to know my lecturers in the way I wanted to.’

 

Darren completed his studies in 2014 and sees his investment at Excelsia in terms of time and money as relatively small but huge both personally and professionally. ‘I personally am really interested in educational theory and philosophy, and Excelsia helped me to develop and expand those ideas and think more deeply about what it really means to be a Christian teacher and to have an educational system that’s infused with Christianity.’

 

In terms of his future, Darren wants to stay firmly planted at Cair Paravel Latin School. ‘Someone once said fulfilment in life comes from finding the thing that you really love doing and finding somebody to pay you to do that, and that’s where I’m at. I’m just blooming where I’m planted and really enjoying it. The Lord has taken me through a lot of winding roads to get where I am, and I can see His leading all along that pathway.’

 

Teachers are highly sought after and play such a vital role in the life of a child and in transforming their future. If Darren’s story has inspired you to play a role in the lives of young adults, it’s never too late to consider teaching. Why not explore our Master of Teaching (Primary) or Master of Teaching (Secondary)?

 

Reference

The Sector (2022). World Teachers’ Day is coming up, and AITSL says ‘hats off to teachers’. https://thesector.com.au/2022/10/19/world-teachers-day-is-coming-up-and-aitsl-says-hats-off-to-teachers/