Year of the Teacher Blog: Ryan Walters

The Influence of Teachers Continues to Impact My Life

By Ryan Walters

One of my earliest memories from school was how excited I was to see my kindergarten teacher. She made school fun for me. My elementary school teachers brought learning to life. I began to see how exciting it could be to learn new things. I later had teachers who taught me about responsibility. They taught me that my grades and my path in life would ultimately be determined by my actions – a lesson I have not forgotten.

Once I got to high school, my English classes and one particular history class gave me a sense of empowerment; learning from the triumphs and mistakes of individuals from the past captivated my attention. I felt that I was beginning to understand the world around me better. I also felt that I was beginning to understand who I wanted to be. Teachers guided me down that journey. They challenged me. They encouraged me. They piqued my curiosity. When I was sitting in these exceptional teachers’ classrooms, time stood still. When the bell rang I couldn't wait for the next class period to pick up. Those teachers fostered an intellectual curiosity and a self-belief that will always be a part of who I am. It was because of those teachers and those experiences in their classrooms that I knew I wanted to be a teacher.

When I began teaching, I couldn’t wait to have an impact on students the way my teachers had impacted me, but very quickly I began to understand this would be a difficult endeavor. Managing my classroom, planning lessons, building curriculum and developing assessments began to weigh me down. I began to feel disappointed that I might never be the teacher I had aspired to be. Then teachers and administrators in my school began to take me under their wing. They shared with me the frustrations they had their first year teaching and how they were able to overcome them. They shared strategies, tips and their passion for helping young people. Once again I had found great inspiration from teachers.

I am so thankful I had the opportunity to encounter so many great teachers at different points in my life. Because of their inspiration, I chose to teach, and I am so thankful for the opportunity to assist students on their way to becoming who they want to be.

Oklahoma has many great teachers who inspire and empower students every day. I am proud to call such educators my colleagues. I am also proud to be represented by Oklahoma Teacher of the Year Donna Gradel. Her inspirational and selfless leadership provides a great example of how influential an educator can be. Thank you, Donna, and all great Oklahoma educators for the immeasurable impact you have on students and fellow teachers!

Ryan Walters teaches AP World History, AP U.S. History and AP U.S. Government at McAlester High School. He was an Oklahoma Teacher of the Year finalist in 2016.

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Last updated on February 25, 2019