The Student News Site of San Luis Obispo High School




The Student News Site of San Luis Obispo High School



SLOHS Teacher Of The Year Wins District Teacher Of The Year


San Luis Obispo High School Special Education teacher William Walters has been named the 2016 San Luis Coastal School District teacher of the year.

Every year, teachers from each school in the county nominate a teacher to be that school’s teacher of the year. After that person is determined, they moved on to the district vote, where a district committee votes on which teacher will be the district’s teacher of the year. Expressions caught up with Walters for a quick interview.

Expressions: What does winning teacher of the year mean to you?

San Luis Obispo High School Special Education Teacher William Walters: I am deeply honored. Teacher of the Year is very meaningful to me because it is a recognition of my program and other programs at SLOHS and in our district that educate and care for students with severe disabilities. The award recognizes my students as students, and when Mr. O’Conner says “all students, all the time”, I can believe that applies to my class also. The award is a tribute for the parents of my students who have given up what would be a chance at a somewhat normal life to care for children who for the most part are fully dependent 24/7.

 The award honors all the people who have worked in my class. I would be quite remiss not to acknowledge my staff who are amazing: Charlotte Coyes, Lisa Cardinalle, Melissa McNeal, and Roy Bean III (Ricky Ruffin). Day after day amazing things happen in my class, and much of the time it has nothing to do with me and everything to do with their efforts. We do many things in my class, but essentially we are caregivers. Every day we work in very close proximity to each other and this can be challenging over the course of a year. They work at a fraction of my pay and I get all the love. That’s messed up. I am honored to be Teacher of the Year, whatever that means. I am certain, however, what it does not mean to me: this is not, and never will be about me, receiving this award based on any form of merit, because if it was, we would be choosing someone from a long list of SLOHS faculty who should be answering these questions instead of me! Please, make no mistake about that!

Expressions: What class do you teach? How long have you taught it?

Walters:  The students in my class are referred to as being Medically Fragile. I don’t know how much I agree with that title, but I guess it works. There are only three other classes like mine in the entire county, and I think it is cool that one is at SLOHS. I have taught this type of class for sixteen years; three in North County and thirteen at SLOHS. Students in my class can range from three to twenty two years, when they would no longer be eligible for special education services.

Expressions: Is there a particular reason you wanted to teach that subject or class?

Walters:  I started teaching this class because it was my only option at the time in Special Education. What a lot of people don’t know about me is that I pretty much gave up as a teacher before I barely got started. I did not want to. My first assignment was teaching students with Emotional Disturbance (a horrible title) outside of our district. I do not want to take the time to describe what that experience was like, but I resigned my position about three months into my second year.  Teachers lasted one or two years in the class before getting out. I was warned not to take the class as a first year teacher, but I was eager to get started and there were not many jobs in special education at the time. Teachers are required to be on probationary status for two years before earning permanent status. After completing my second year I just quit. I could not do that assignment for one more year, and I really do not want to get into all the reasons why. I was forty-three, had earned two teaching credentials and a masters degree, sold my business to be a special education teacher and I let it all go. During the summer I applied for other position in special education, but there were many people more qualified who got those jobs. Near the end of summer I had no job and a family to support. It was one of the lowest points in my life. Just before school started I received a call that there was an opening for one of the medically fragile class in North County if I wanted it. I was told to rescind my letter of resignation and I started my third year of teaching at permanent status.

Expressions: Aside from teaching, what other hobbies do you enjoy doing?

Walters: My wife and I like to dance and we try to get out there a couple times a week. There is a lot of good live local music in our area all the time.

I love to surf and have been surfing since I was a young kid. Besides teaching my class during the summer, for the past ten years, I help run a non-profit with some friends of mine. Project Surf Camp is designed to teach surfing to individuals with special needs and kids in foster care. Every summer in July and August we have about 25 half-day camps. Around two hundred and fifty kids will attend these camps. We are very proud of our organization. Several years ago we were featured nationally on NBC News the Today Show. We were one of four finalists out of eight hundred competing for best non-profit in the nation. The contest was sponsored by Pepsi and we were second in the national vote and received a large monetary gift that allowed us to purchase equipment for the camp. After that, camp pretty much blew up. If anyone is interested in volunteering this summer please come see me in room 800.

Expressions: Any last comments?

Walters: I just want to say thank you for this opportunity. You guys are so blessed to have the faculty, counselors, administration, and all the support staff who work crazy hard for all the students at SLOHS.

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