HHS Principal Patricia Walling
The principal of Havre de Grace High School, who has studied speech pathology, knows the language of students and teachers alike.
Each week, Havre de Grace Patch will recognize a local teacher for their efforts in the classroom and around the school community.
Our Teacher of the Week is Havre de Grace High School principal Patricia Walling.
Walling has been the principal at Havre de Grace since 2006, after serving five years as the assistant principal at Bel Air High School. Her background is in speech and language pathology. After beginning her career at the Rosewood Center in Owings Mills, Walling began working with Harford County Public School system at John Archer in 1985. She began to facilitate inclusion into the public schools with a pilot program in Bel Air in 1992.
Havre de Grace High School
Years at current school: 5
Patch: What sparked your interest in teaching?
Principal Walling: Oh my gosh. When I was 14, I worked as a instructional support person in a Title I summer school program. I knew then that I wanted to help kids who had problems. I got into special education, and it was a natural fit to move into the school system. I really knew I wanted to work with a needy population. The John Archer position opened up, and I was hired in November because they hadn't filled the position yet. It was just timing.
Patch: How do you get through to your students as a principal?
Principal Walling: I think its knowing about the kids. It's communicating with the kids and building relationships. I think the relationship is very important. I try to know as many of our students as possible, and know them personally. When I see them in classes, I touch base with them, give them feedback about what I see them doing in classes. I think it's important to just be there, be there for them. I'm here as much as I can be, out in the building talking to them, calling them by name. I invite them into my office. One of the things I'm going to do this year is "Pow-Wow with the Principal," invite groups of kids in for lunch, just to have conversations with them and see what their needs are, what they want for their school, how we can make it better for them.
Patch: What is the biggest challenge a teacher faces today?
Principal Walling: I think their workload is incredible. I think they too want to build relationships with kids, but we're aching them to do more and more and more with looking at data, assessing data, and seeing how data can help them. They maintain their data resources through Redline, and report cards and progress reports. Technology has helped us greatly, but it has also added to the workload. And we haven't found a way to take anything away. That is the biggest piece.
Patch: I'm sure it can be easy for some of the older teachers to just give up, in some instance, with all the technology that's being put into place.
Principal Walling: It's really hard. I think if you haven't grown up with technology, our kids are very savvy. Our teachers who have been in the system, not all of them, but many of them have taken on that challenge. The nuances, we have a whole system-wide data management system that we had all the staff in the county trained on this summer. It's hard for some of the teachers, because you're looking at the screen and looking at colors and numbers. What do those numbers mean? Part of our professional development this year is to say, 'here is what these numbers mean, and here's how it can help you.' But for now, it's a burden because they don't understand it.
Patch: What is something parents and outsiders don't understand about your job?
Principal Walling: I think we have to explain to parents that yes, their child is very important to us, but so too are all of the other kids, and that their children are entitled to certain things, just as everybody else is. When things are going well, they're going well for lots of us, and when they're not going well, they're not going well for lots of us. We need to spend our time with those who are not as lucky, or those who are struggling. It's a balance of how do you provide for those kids who need a lot of support, and how do you provide for those kids who need support and are our AP kids. I want to have as much for all of them, but it's hard to divide the time. And I think everybody is entitled to the best education. You need to do it for everybody; it's hard to explain. It's tricky. It's tricky to do. I want to have more AP and Honors courses. We're adding more each year as we can, but we also have to make sure we're supporting the kids who need the support in the middle, and those who are struggling learners.
Patch: How do your students make you proud?
Principal Walling: I think this school in particular has such a sense of community. And our kids really take care of each other, and they know each other. There are things that happen in the community, but its rare that they bring it to school. They're proud of their school, they're proud of their accomplishments, and they're proud of each other.
Patch: That takes it right into my next question — what makes this school so unique?
Principal Walling: I think that the community, these kids take care of each other. Their parents went here, some grandparents went here, they go here. There's a sense of tradition that a lot of other schools don't have. As we build new tradition, I don't think we take anything from anything that was a tradition prior. There's an expectation that we are a school of tradition.
To nominate a teacher at your school, e-mail our local editor at firstname.lastname@example.org