TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – In 1969, Apollo 10 transmitted the first color pictures of Earth from space. That’s also when Barbara Walker began her long teaching journey in Tampa. Since then, she’s helped shape the minds of hundreds of students.
“I always thought of myself as a student, I never thought of myself so much as a teacher. It was always ‘oh good. I get to learn something new this year,’” she said.
Ms. Walker began her career in 1966 in her home state of Georgia before moving to Tampa. Fifty-two years after teaching at Madison, Jefferson, and Blake High schools, this AP Literature teacher is ending her long journey.
“As my family can attest, they never thought, ever, that they would see me retire. Ever. They thought they would have to take me out on a stretcher, I guess,” she said laughing.
A lot has changed since 1969. Classrooms had to adapt to computers, new teaching methods, and students with cell phones. Although, the students haven’t changed much throughout the decades, according to Ms. Walker.
“They would pass these little notes around. I would be like, ‘I’m not reading what this little note says. Nor, do I want to see what’s on your phone,’” she said. “As a teacher, you need to have a good sense of humor. If you don’t… well, you might be doomed.”
She was far from doomed with her witty nature and her passion for inspiring kids.
“Do you know how much fun it is to teach?” said Ms. Walker. “They’re always dancing in your room and they’re writing novels and they would say things like ‘Ms. Walker, this book is so good.'”
Her last year in the classroom required more energy and a lot of patience in what might have been her most trying year. The COVID-19 pandemic pushed her and her students to the limit.
“It was like a warzone. We needed Sir Winston Churchill here to tell us how to fight in the ditches and fight in the air, and fight to survive,” she said speaking like a true literature teacher and a true heroine in this tale of triumph. “They (the students) needed solace and help from everybody and they did it, they did. And we did it. Teachers deserve every little bit of love and respect one can give them because it was extraordinarily, extraordinarily difficult.”
So, what’s next for Ms. Walker?
“I could write a book, I could. I could tutor kids who need help with college essays.”