I want to tell you a little about one of my heroes, Walter Enloe. I first met Walter when I was one of the founding teachers for a project-based charter school back in 2003. Walter worked with EdVisions which granted startup money for project-based charter schools and was providing some expertise and support. Boy, did we need it.
I was immediately drawn to Walter. He could take over a room, not with exuberance, magnetism, or charisma (though not saying he didn’t have those qualities), but it was empathy and kindness that took over the room when Walter entered. After meeting Walter in that setting, I then had the good fortune to have Walter as one of my professors in the Hamline University doctoral program.
Much of who I am as a teacher is due to Walter’s influence.
From Walter I learned what it truly means to put the student at the center of teaching and learning. Walter treated every student as a colleague in learning and a friend. From his example, I learned the importance of teaching from a place of empathy. I’m forever grateful for that and I can only hope the teachers I’m training learn Walter’s lessons through me, at least as best I can pass them on to the next generation of teachers.
Walter wasn’t just a teacher, but also a writer and an artist. He brought all of that to his teaching. He shared that aspect of himself with his students which created the space for building meaningful relationships with his students, which is foundational to good teaching. By doing this he modeled, and then created space for his students to take risks, explore their world and learn in creative ways.
He said to me once as we were talking about one of our more artistic ventures (something one of us was writing or working on–I don’t recall what), paraphrasing as best I can, “We’re fartists. We’re fucking artists. We fuck around with it. Play with it.” We use a variety of creative means to explore ourselves, our world, and our place in it. Art wasn’t our profession, it is a tool to living, exploring, and teaching. We teach as we live. We live as we teach.
From Walter’s Obituary in the Star Tribune (which I encourage you to read)
When I die I want to have left something to the world even though it may affect only a few people. I want to have made my life useful and helpful to other people and to society. I want to be a good citizen of my community, state, country and world. I want to grow in respect and understanding of all cultures and peoples beginning with my Japanese friends and neighbors in Hiroshima. I want to help preserve peace and goodwill among all peoples through tolerance and respect, treating all peoples with respect and love.