One year later, Walker still inspires students, faculty

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One year later, Walker still inspires students, faculty

Art teachers Lori Lee and Valerie Lichtenberger pose in front of the art display dedicated to Charlotte Walker.

Art teachers Lori Lee and Valerie Lichtenberger pose in front of the art display dedicated to Charlotte Walker.

Photo by Kayla Music

Art teachers Lori Lee and Valerie Lichtenberger pose in front of the art display dedicated to Charlotte Walker.

Photo by Kayla Music

Photo by Kayla Music

Art teachers Lori Lee and Valerie Lichtenberger pose in front of the art display dedicated to Charlotte Walker.

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One year later, the tribute poster has been taken down. One year later, her name tag has been replaced with someone else’s. But the art paintings dedicated to her fill an art display case next to her former classroom, and she is still present in the hearts and minds of many students and teachers.

Charlotte Walker died of breast cancer on Oct. 11, 2016. She taught art at this campus for 31 years. Even though she may not still be here, her legacy is still inspiring students.

Junior Tiara Sison recalled an afternoon with Walker when she shared how passionate she is about art and her desire to pursue an art career.

“And then she dropped the bombshell and told me that she had cancer,” Sison said. “God, it was so hard. She told me that she’d be okay, but we know that wasn’t true.”

On that fateful October afternoon, about ten months after telling Sison about her cancer, Walker left after school to go to a regular doctor’s appointment. She died at the hospital.

“Her dream was to keep teaching until the day she died,” Sison said. “Guess what? That happened literally.”

Art teacher Lori Lee was at home watching TV and getting ready for bed when she received the news by text from another teacher.

“(My initial reaction was) shock and disbelief. Of course, you’re in denial at first. I just knew that we had lost a valuable person on this campus right away,” Lee said.

The next day, Sison sat in Walker’s classroom, and some administrators and counselors walked in to deliver the news.

“We were sitting in class when they just filed in. We had to know something was wrong, and I think we automatically assumed that it was because of Mrs. Walker,” Sison said. “I knew it was coming, it just still seemed so soon. You’re never prepared to receive news like that; it’s never the time.”

Walker had breast cancer for four years. Lee said she was declared in remission, and then less than a year later, the cancer came back. Lee and Walker shared a common enemy in cancer.

“We did have that cancer connection, of course, because we were both survivors,” Lee said. “I had a scare when (my cancer) relapsed, and mine turned out to be okay. Hers was a more aggressive form of cancer.”

                                                      Photo by Kayla Music
The art display dedicated to Charlotte Walker. It is decorated with artwork for breast cancer, a decorated chair, and articles written about her.

Both Lee and Sison still think about Walker nearly every day. Publications adviser Jeanette Krizak said that Walker once told her that she liked to think of her art students as her children because she didn’t have any of her own.

Sison describes Walker as someone to look up to, a compassionate, involved teacher who you can tell really wanted to be teaching.

“Even in (her) time of need, (her) only thought is ‘how can I help others today, how can I put other people’s needs above my own?’ She was literally in a life or death situation, and she still thought of her students and how she could help them,” Sison said. “It’s very admirable. I can’t think of anything more self-sacrificing that someone can do.”

Lee still sees reminders of Walker all throughout the school.

“She’s all over this building. She’s everywhere. Just little reminders of her. Like, I’ll do an assignment that she gave me the idea for,” Lee said.

Last year, Lee and another art teacher, Valerie Lichtenberger, designed a breast cancer awareness shirt. This year, they have designed a new one, and all the proceeds from the shirt will go to the new Charlotte Walker Scholarship.

“It will go towards art students who are on the art endorsement plan, meaning they want to pursue art in the future, and to students who actually go through the AP program here and submit an art portfolio to the College Board,” Lichtenberger said.

Lichtenberger hopes to raise enough money to give a few deserving art students a $500 scholarship.

In the art case, even though the pieces may rotate, Lee said that there will probably always be a corner dedicated to Walker.

“I think it really does a justice to her memory. I think it honors her a lot,” Lee said.

Charlotte Walker will forever be remembered inside and out of the school walls, but more importantly, she will be remembered by many as a teacher who loved her work, and a coworker who was passionate about her subject.