GLEN ROCK, NJ - Kathleen Walter is the recipient of the 2018-19 Robert Ax Award, given annually to a high school and a middle school educator in the district.
Walters has been teaching in the district for more than 12 years. Much like former principal Robert Ax himself, district officials said, Walters is an institutional staff member, described as someone who is not always visible but is always there, and "always doing what needs to be done."
The Glen Rock Middle School/High School Home and School Association presented the Robert Ax Award on June 10 in the media center, marking the 50th year the award was given out. The teachers are selected by their peers.
"[Kathleen] is the perfect embodiment of a quote by President Teddy Roosevelt, who said it best in a 1910 speech, "the credit belongs to the man who is actually IN the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood."
Walters graduated from Fair Lawn High School and has a BA in History from the UMass Amherst and a Masters in History at Montclair State University. Her teaching career began at West Milford High School, where she was named Passaic County Teacher of the Year in 1996.
After taking a seven-year hiatus to raise three daughters, Walters returned to teaching in 2007, "when she was tasked with filling the enormous shoes of a local legend…Al Deaett, who had recently vacated the history teacher position at GRHS," school officials said.
For most of her time in district, Walters taught the demanding and high-stress U.S. History II AP classes.
"She consistently pushes her students to score remarkably well on the AP exam," officials said.
In 2014, the College Board recognized her success, and invited Walters to become an AP test grader, which she continues to do.
Walters raised two graduates from the district, as well.
She ran the high school's chapter of Relay For Life, helping to raise thousands of dollars for cancer research.
She founded and continues to run the Poverty Awareness Project, which encourages students to actively engage in making the world a better place.
She’s been a class advisor twice and is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Glen Rock Public Library.
She’s the Glen Rock Education Association Vice President and serves on the union's Contract Negotiations Committee.
She has coached the Glen Rock Girls' Volleyball Team since 2012, as well.
"She’s not just IN the school, our Robert Ax Award recipient is a deeply positive presence here," district officials said. "Beloved by her students, she has been among the most popular teachers here for her entire career and gets more post-graduation visits than possibly any other teacher in the history of GRHS.
"Respected by her peers, our recipient's strong moral compass and leadership skills make her a popular source of advice and a powerful voice in support of her colleagues. She truly is Teddy Roosevelt’s 'woman in the arena,' and knowing how much GRHS means to her, it’s difficult to imagine a person who will be more moved by this great honor."
About the Award
The award is in honor of Mr. Robert H. Ax, the founding principal of Glen Rock High School, who traveled around the country interviewing hundreds of prospective teachers and hiring a select few. The award was established during the 1968-69 school year by the HSA, upon Mr. Ax’s retirement.
The criteria for the award were established after consultation with Mr. Ax so the award would recognize someone who exemplifies the qualities he valued: love of people in general and young people in particular, exceptionally high degree of personal integrity; loyalty to colleagues, to the community and most of all – to the students.
The winners are kept secret, and the recipients do not know they have won until the names are revealed during the reading of brief biographies by the president of the Glen Rock Middle School/High School Home and School Association. Family members are invited to share in the celebration, but are sequestered in a back room, appearing only when the winners are announced.