Anyone who has been taught by—or has met—Madeleine Walker sings her praises. Former students write to her and often come back to visit her at Palisades Charter Elementary School in Pacific Palisades. It is also not surprising that Walker, who has been teaching there for the past 21 years, was chosen as one of 22 outstanding Los Angeles Unified School District Teachers of the Year for 2018.
"I really, really love my work and I am truly dedicated to my students and to my profession,” says Walker. “I like to find what my students are passionate about and engage them on different levels. As educators, we have to reach all of our learners and make sure we differentiate for our students—different learning styles must be used for different needs."
Walker has an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and is an admitted workaholic, arriving at work each day at 6:30 a.m. and leaving after 5 p.m. Walker derives tremendous pleasure from teaching and favors project-based learning in her classroom. Additionally, she engages in professional development, attending classes and workshops after school and on Saturdays for professional development. Walker is also a distinguished National Board Certified Teacher—one of only two at her school.
"I want people to see that I am passionate and dynamic and that I stay current,” she says. “There is an art to teaching and it never gets stale—there is always so much to do. I love going to work every day. I get so much inspiration from the children—their energy and positivity are contagious."
In addition to teaching math, science, arts and humanities, reading and writing, social studies, technology and art to a combination fourth and fifth grade class, Walker assists with the Science Fair, serves as English Language Coordinator, sits on the Personal Selection and Curriculum Committees and inspires student community service as a Student Council Advisor. This year, she will also coach a new Robotics Team comprised of fifth graders.
"Ms. Walker is in a class by herself when it comes to dedication,” says Pali Elementary Principal Gary Saunders. “She has a hunger for learning that benefits her colleagues, our parents, and most importantly, our students. I am beyond grateful to be able to have a colleague in education like her, who is unwilling to be content with only meeting our students' basic needs. She is committed to escorting our students to the highest level of their personal potential. Our school and community is better because of her."
A Santa Monica native and lifelong resident, Walker decided at age 9 that she wanted to become a teacher. Her inspiration came from her fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Archambeau, who significantly impacted Walker’s life. She went on to earn both her Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies, and her master's degree in Education at Cal State Northridge. Prior to coming to Pali Elementary, Walker taught at the Carlthorp School for 12 years. She met her husband Tim, a guidance counselor at Culver City Unified High School, when they both worked as counselors at a camp for underprivileged children. The Walkers worked as summer camp counselors for 25 years and believe in giving back and helping others—something they have instilled in their two daughters (who also attended Pali Elementary). Their daughter Caitlyn is a student at UCLA, and daughter Meghan is working on her doctorate in physical therapy at Western University of Health Sciences. Dedicated and engaged, the Walkers operate from an attitude of gratitude, and their students and campers have reaped an abundance of rewards because of them.