Meet #NAESP16 Conference Blogger Rachel Walters

The Florida principal will begin her conference experience at Ed Camp.

By Rachel Walters

Welcome to #NAESP16. I am Rachel Walters, and I am very excited to serve as the official conference blogger this year. 

I love being a principal. My first priority, however, is my family. I have been married to Tim for 20 years, and we have two active boys who are in high school and middle school. Their many extracurricular activities leave little time for anything else, but we do manage to eat dinner together most nights. I do get some alone time, and I spend it running. In fact, I recently decided to train for a sprint triathlon in October. My goal is to get at least five more staff members to begin exercising regularly this year. It’s hard to take care of others if we neglect ourselves.

I just completed my 24th year in education, with the last 10 years spent in administration. All of my administrative years were in Title I schools. Currently, I am proud to work in Hillsborough County Schools in Tampa, Florida, where I am the principal of Shaw Elementary School. The school serves 770 pre-k through fifth-grade students, with 99 percent of them receiving free or reduced-price lunches.

The school is located near the University of South Florida, and we are one of six schools working with the Urban Teacher Residency Program (UTRPP), @utrpp, to prepare new teachers who will be working in our urban schools. The program provides elementary education majors with over 2,000 hours of classroom experience prior to becoming a teacher. UTRPP also offers outstanding professional learning for the residents and cooperating teachers increasing the instructional knowledge of each.

Shaw Elementary is also a pilot school for the district’s one-to-one device initiative. The goal is to eventually have a device in the hands of every child and to use the technology to complete project based-learning focused on community issues. Our students will be solving problems which impact their lives daily.

This is my second NAESP annual conference, and I am looking forward to connecting with other leaders from across the country. I have also had the opportunity to serve on a focus group for NAESP, and that opportunity sparked my interest in expanding my influence beyond my home district.  I want to use NAESP to extend my reach as an educator as I look for ways to better my own practice while mentoring others.

My first stop in Washington, D.C. will be NAESP EdCamp 2016 on Tues., July 5.  I am anxious to participate in my first EdCamp outside of my own building. I know the learning will be energizing and an excellent way to start the conference. The remainder of the week will be spent attending sessions to help me meet the goals of my own learning plan, which focuses on improving school culture and climate and setting high expectations for all stakeholders. I am especially looking forward to being involved in “How High is Your Bar? Setting High Expectations for the School Community” with Nick Proud, @Nick_Proud, on Wednesday. I suggest downloading the #NAESP16 app to help organize your time in advance. You can also use this itinerary planner.

Feel free to connect with me on Twitter @RachelWalters or at Clearing the Path. I’m looking forward to increasing my professional learning network through the conference, and I hope you can do the same.

Rachel Walters, principal of Shaw Elementary School in Tampa, Florida, is serving as the #NAESP16 official blogger.