As Amy Walsh nears the end of her full-time teaching career, she had a show-and-tell day not for her students, but for herself.
She shared with her students her collection of class pictures from when she started teaching in Serena.
“They were all laid out on the floor for her students to look at,” said her colleague, Tiffany Muffler, a Harding Grade School preschool teacher. “[Amy] said they had quite the conversation about hairstyles.”
Walsh’s teaching career began 34 years ago in the late 1980s when perms and teased hair were popular. Her first two years of teaching, she taught third and fourth graders in Triumph before moving to Unit 2 for 32 years, 26 of which in Serena and six years in Harding, and all in a kindergarten classroom.
“I love that they’re like sponges. They soak everything in,” Walsh said. “The growth from the beginning of the year to the end of the year is just unbelievable. They love to learn and they love to be at school.”
In her classroom, she said she and the students are friends with a mutual respect for one another.
“We love each other. We take care of each other. We move all day. I think they’re kind to each other,” she said. “I don’t ever have to raise my voice. I feel like they can just look at me and I’m like their mom and they take it for what it is. If I say ‘no’ they don’t do it.”
As a little girl, Walsh knew she wanted to be a teacher – to follow in the footsteps of her grandmother, who was a first-grade teacher. Her sister and brother also chose the education field.
“For many years, we would go there after school because she would take us home, so I would kind of play school and I’d help grade papers.”
She attended Illinois Valley Community College for one year and graduated from North Central College in Naperville and received her master’s degree from Aurora University.
She also served on the school board for 16 years, which helped teach her the business side of education.
She’s also learned from her coworkers, because while the hairstyles have changed so has much else. At the beginning of her career, there was no technology and now it’s a constant.
“I learned more of the new technology during COVID, so I leaned on the new teachers,” she said. “When I first started I learned from the veteran teachers and then as I was going I mentored teachers and then at the end I learned from the new teachers. It was a full circle.”
Amy is an advocate for not only the struggling students, but the students who excel and need to be pushed further along.— Tiffany Muffler, a Harding Grade School preschool teacher
Muffler has worked with Walsh for four years, but met her many years ago when she opened a preschool with Walsh’s sister.
“Amy is known throughout the Serena school district and parents really appreciate her and all she does for her students,” she said. “Amy is an advocate for not only the struggling students, but the students who excel and need to be pushed further along.”
Angie Pokarney, who co-teaches kindergarten with Walsh and Jen Rosengren, said Walsh excels at keeping her students engaged and providing the instruction and skills to meet the variety of students’ needs.
“I’ve felt so fortunate for the teamwork [and] collaboration we’ve always had over the everyday happenings in our rooms, from how to best utilize a new curriculum to fixing a classroom arrangement, scheduling, planning new ideas for working with our whole class, small groups, or individual students – anything,” Pokarney said. “Amy is a great combination of teaching practicality, experience and fun.”
Walsh, a lifelong Earlville resident, has enjoyed her tenure in Unit 2.
“Serena’s a nice small school. It’s got a nice family atmosphere. I’ve become best friends with many teachers throughout the years. I’ve had kids that I’ve taught their kids.”
Walsh said she will miss her students, which is why she plans to substitute teach.
“I just I love the kids. Every year it’s a fresh start. The amount they grow and learn is so exciting to watch. They surprise you. They’re not afraid. It’s a pace. You have to feel the kids and know their pace and when they’re ready to move on you move on. It’s a lot of hands on. It’s amazing what they do.”