Spotlight On... LEH Junior School Director of Studies Mrs Walker
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It’s been a happy week in the Junior School with U6 students coming to say farewell before they go off on study leave for their A levels.  “It makes me so proud that they want to come and see us,” says Director of Studies Chaeli Walker, who is also a Maths teacher and a deputy form teacher for U2.

“They come back to tell us how much they loved their time here in the Junior School and sometimes there are tears as they remember the happy times they spent here. They haven’t forgotten us, and it’s clear that in some ways we’ve influenced them, certainly more than we realised at the time.”

It’s not hard to see why Mrs Walker might have had a big impact on her former pupils, as she is bursting with ideas and enthusiasm.  Her brain is working 19 to the dozen and she waves her hands as she talks as if there’s more whirring round in there than she can possibly express in words alone.

“My mind is always buzzing; you can never rest on your laurels.  We’re always seeking out different and better ways of doing things. My brain is very visual. I picture everything in my head.  I even see sums moving through my mind. I like organising, and I do love a spreadsheet!”

It’s clear that her passion for learning and continual improvement is infectious and Mrs Walker certainly seems to have found the perfect role to allow her to do just that.

Mrs Walker has taught at LEH Junior School for 14 years, having joined as a Year 6 maths teacher and curriculum co-ordinator. During that time, she has got married, had three daughters (two of whom are current pupils) and has been promoted to Director of Studies. She is in charge of curriculum development and monitoring, as well as overseeing all pupil assessments in the Junior School, including CATS (Cognitive Abilities Testing) and all data analysis.

“We’re checking that every pupil is achieving as they should.  It’s not about reaching their potential because their potential should be limitless.  It’s working out how we can broaden and challenge them, giving them the tools to use to stretch themselves independently, but with our support in a safe, friendly learning environment. To take a risk, they have to feel safe and secure. We’re looking to build resilience.  Sometimes they will make mistakes, and they need to know that it’s ok, because that’s how you learn and grow.”

The Junior School uses scaffolding and teaches to the top, rather than streaming. This allows all children to be extended and challenged, through guidance and support they can work at a higher level. In addition to written work, teachers use conversation and questions during lessons to ensure each pupil is working at the right level and being encouraged to improve.

Mrs Walker explains: “We continually track every pupil in school both academically and pastorally as issues may affect wellbeing or performance We’re always asking, what can we do to help them? We want every child to do her best."

When Mrs Walker was a child, she assumed she’d follow in the family footsteps and end up working in the world of medicine. But during her gap year, she got a job in a local school, helping out in PE, listening to children read and doing admin work. “And I just loved being around the children. I realised I wanted to teach – and that was it. I went off to do a degree in primary school education, got a job as a year three teacher and moved on to another school or two, before arriving at LEH 14 years ago and I’ve loved every moment of it.”

Her favourite teacher at school was Mr Sherwood, who taught History.  “We were a bit scared of him, however he was just the best teacher and commanded respect. There was one GCSE lesson in particular that I’ll never forget. We were learning about the First World War, and as we filed into class, there he was, standing on a desk, shouting at us to “Get Down” and take cover in the trenches.  There was a whole bunch of 15-year-old girls, commando crawling around the classroom, under the desks, on our bellies. We were terrified and excited at the same time.  He was making it real, bringing it to life and making it relevant to us. It stimulated our imaginations immediately and made us want to know more.”

That thirst for knowledge has stayed with her and is something she wants to pass on in turn. “We want our pupils to love learning and we want them to have passion. There’s a lot of humour in the Junior School. The staff here are just incredible, and it’s clear they adore the children and want what’s best for them.”

Mrs Walker keeps the ideas coming by keeping up to date with educational innovations, attending courses, and talking to colleagues both in the Junior School and at other schools. “We’re always thinking of what else we can do, for example we don’t have a forest school, but how can we develop the use of our science garden more to boost outdoor learning? What about using it for art or reading as well as doing experiments outside?”

“All the staff have amazing ideas; I just help bring them together.  Someone will suggest something, and it will spark a chain reaction. When we introduce a new topic, I look at how we can re-tweak things so it can be weaved into other subjects, as we’re very cross curricular – for example Maths and PE can link up when it comes to measurement and things like long jump.”

“It’s all interlinked and it’s about enriching the curriculum. We want to encourage pupils to think critically and they’re more likely to do that if they are excited and engaged. We want them to be confident and love learning.  That’s the key, to love learning.”

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