This New York Teacher Inspires Through Her Dedication To Learning
by Thomas Stanley
When you first walk in and see this dynamic person work, you are in disbelief.
Fai Walker, the executive director of Return to Wholeness LLC, is the heart and soul of sustainability and project-based learning in some of New York City’s public schools. I had the pleasure of working with her last spring on an “organic garden project.” It was amazing to see her in action. You immediately fall in love with her wonderful work ethic, her drive to help kids learn, and her working with teachers. She assists them in creating effective experiential lessons and gathering resources to help kids have a successful educational experience.
Ms. Walker is from Brooklyn, New York and has over twenty years of experience working in the arts, arts in education, and program development in urban communities. For the last 15 years she has successfully worked with both traditional and non-tradition students. As a leader in her community she has initiated numerous projects, built partnerships with academic and community groups, fundraised, created professional development, and designed curriculum. She is the Leonardo da Vinci of sustainability for her neighborhood. Thousands of students and teachers have benefited from her supervision and management of projects that give real meaning to learning.
Whenever a project is underway she is constantly on the move, taking out a tattered notebook that has a massive amount of projects and resources available to use on any project. Her work has helped Manhattans; MS 328 received a well-developed rating from School Quality review. The sustainability work she did there was featured as a model of success. She was responsible for the creation of sustainably education at Manhattan Middle School for Scientific Inquiry (MS328) that involved 42 teachers and administrators plus over 400 students in the Washington Heights area of New York city.
Her ability to gather community partners for projects at MS328 is remarkable and includes the following: Columbia University, WEACT, Grow NYC, and New York Restoration Project. She has negotiated contracts with administrators, and written and received funding from the following organizations: Grow NYC, Westinghouse, and Bronx Health Reach.
Her work with community partnerships is a model for project design, and assessment. These partnerships are designed to help students understand how science, math, and technology can all relate to their lives. Through Fai’s effort there is an 85% retention of long-term partnership clients. An example of this is the expeditionary learning Curriculum Resource Fair that she conceived and developed. This activity brings together ninety expeditionary learning teachers and thirty-two community–based organizations. The sole mission of the resource fair is to provide free outside expert, workshops, lectures, and resources to NYC public schools.
All her efforts are designed to help students in tough academic areas to understand and enjoy their educational experience.
All of her work on sustainability curriculum and education is remarkable but not as remarkable as she is as a person. Fai is a joy to be around, work with, and get to know. The students, teachers, administrators, and community members of New York City are lucky to have this wonderful resource at their disposal. Her work extends into many areas but this well kept secret of NYC is no longer a secret.
Keep up the good work, you are the best!