Walker Kyle with his sixth-grade students Jeremiah Bennett, Noelia Elizondo, Liliana Urias-Soto, Jazmin Muniz, Chloe Fondeck, Cesia Gonzalez, Tatum Terrell, Carter Orozco and Aiden Simpson.

On the campus of Maricopa Wells Middle School, Walker Kyle is referred to as Dr. Kyle.

But his relationship with his students isn’t quite as formal as that. In his first year at Maricopa Unified School District, he has learned the needs of his six classes of Exceptional Student Services, inside and outside the classroom. He’s also been savvy enough to find a source to fund those needs besides his own pocketbook.

Kyle was one of 200 Arizona teachers awarded $5,000 each by Fiesta Bowl Charities Wishes for Teachers as it gave out $1 million in grants.

“When we heard about it, we were very excited,” sixth grader Jazmin Muniz said.

The grant money will go toward technology like computers and laptops to help them with math concepts and reading. It will also provide classroom supplies. ESS determines special education programs, policies and procedures.

“This award will really help our students. I think it’s a big step. Typically, I spend $200 to $300 a month out of my paycheck to get the kiddoes what they need in order to be successful,” Kyle said. “This year alone, I have bought boxes upon boxes of folders, markers, pencils. It’s to a point where I’m working a second job in order to make sure I can continue my ministry. I look at education as a ministry.”

He also offers afterschool math tutoring to about 25 students. His typical day on campus starts at 6 a.m. and ends at 7:30 p.m. or later.

“With my learners I have to build four or five lesson plans to be sure I catch where they are at,” Kyle said. “I believe tests and scores are not everything. We have student portfolios and we look at the progress from when they come in to their progress in December, their progress in March. I feel like if we can gain two or three major concepts in my class, we’ve made progress.”

The application for the grant had to go through the district business office. Kyle stressed the need for math and reading help. Fiesta Bowl disbursed the funds to teachers in K-12 classrooms.

“He’s doing great,” Principal Thad Miller said. “I love when they apply for grants. It’s going to be good.”

Kyle’s ESS classrooms have about 10 students each. He came to MUSD from the Dysart Unified School District, bringing 16 years of experience. His care for his students goes beyond buying school supplies and even gym shorts and hygiene products. One of his students may soon be adopted into Kyle’s family.

“When I was a kid, I had a teacher really pour into me,” he said. “If it wasn’t for Mr. Pickens, I don’t think I would be here where I am today. I was a pain in the butt in sixth grade. He came up to me and he said, ‘I’m not giving up on you, Walker, but I will hold you accountable.’”

This story appears in the December issue of InMaricopa.


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