23 Nov Humble teacher gains national recognition

Dr Nigel Evans from the Woolf Fisher Trust made a surprise visit to Nayland College’s morning staff briefing on the 18th November.  He was there to present long-time teacher and Head of Maths, John Walker, with a prestigious fellowship.  The Trust awards 12 of these fellowships a year nationally to acknowledge and encourage “excellence in educational leadership and ‘in-school’ practice in New Zealand”.

John had known about the award since the end of term three but was sworn to secrecy.  Fortunately he is good at keeping secrets, although his wife did know.  She will travel with him when he visits schools in Victoria and Western Australia next year.  He plans to focus on looking at how these schools are promoting growth mindsets in the teaching of maths.  This is an approach which aims to right the common misconception that some people are born with a maths mind, while others are not.  “Anyone can be a maths brain,” he says.  

On accepting the award, John spoke about the strength of his colleagues in the maths department and how they “made [him] look good”.   He described himself as a “young ageing teacher” and talked about how the spark that had been kindled this year through research into his teaching practice, had now turned into a “flamethrower in a napalm jungle.”  

Nayland College principal Daniel Wilson said he is delighted that John has been awarded the fellowship.  “He is very active regionally in the New Zealand Association of Mathematics Teachers and recently has spent a significant amount of time working with our local cluster of schools alongside primary and intermediate teachers to share best practice,” he said.  “Teachers (and ultimately students) in the primary sector have benefited from his expert mathematical advice and Nayland College students have benefited through the use of more holistic and integrated practices within John’s classroom and across the department.”

Though the applause from his colleagues in the staffroom was rousing, John Walker is humble about the accolade.  “I’m just the guy who does road duty in the morning,” he says.