In a recent yearbook poll, government teacher Tyler Walker was voted “Most Likely to be Mistaken for a Student,” a distinction that he finds amusing.
“It is funny, and I’m not that much older than my seniors,” Walker said. “I think it’s humorous, but I try to dress like an old man a lot. I did get told, that, one day when I wore a sweatshirt and jeans, that someone actually thought I was a student.”
However, Walker is most proud of his military service. He enlisted in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard when he was 17, after hearing about the opportunity from his best friend. Service in the National Guard combines his longtime passion for history with the desire to serve and be a part of something bigger than himself.
“When I [heard] about [the National Guard], I learned that they would pay for college,” Walker said. “So, on top of wanting to do all those other things, now there was the added bonus of paying for school.”
Walker went through basic training the summer of his junior year and attended advanced training the summer before he started college at Shippensburg University in south-central Pennsylvania in 2011. In college, he decided to join ROTC to become an officer.
“There wasn’t enough helping I could do,” Walker said. “I wanted to do more to serve. I wanted to be an officer to serve as a leader.”
Walker is commissioned as a lieutenant, and although he originally enlisted to assist in natural disaster relief, he’s currently training to go into combat.
“My units have been able to go and help with natural disasters, but as infantry, we’re a combat brigade,” Walker said. “We’re [constantly] preparing for deployments to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s an amazing opportunity that we could go fight terrorism.”
Being a young leader can be challenging since many of the soldiers Walker commands are more experienced, with 10-20 years of service and multiple deployments. According to Walker, commanding a mechanized infantry unit is a big challenge.
“I’ve got four Bradley Fighting Vehicles that are like armored personnel carriers that I have to train and know how to use,” Walker said. “I have to know the armored side of things and know the infantry side of things, while still learning how to be in the Bradley and command it myself and lead soldiers. It’s a lot of things to juggle.”
Although Walker had an opportunity for deployment in 2013, it was canceled due to budget cuts.
“Right now we have a potential deployment in 2018, that I can’t really talk too much about,” Walker said. “It’s been fortunate because I’ve been able to finish my education. I would like to go, to be able to serve, because I feel like I haven’t done anything. It’s been years and I’ve just been training so much. I want to do more, to earn being called a veteran before I get out, because I’ve only got a couple of years left.”
Walker trains over the summer and one weekend every month; he occasionally needs to take a day off work to fulfill his duties. Working as a teacher while serving in the military has proved challenging, especially when he was also coaching football last year.
“When everybody else is lesson-planning Saturday and Sunday, I’m training and leading soldiers,” Walker said. “When I was coaching football, and doing that and teaching, I thought I was going to die. So, I had to take a step back from coaching to focus on teaching, but it is incredibly challenging.”
Walker’s commission ends in 2020, and although he could stay in the military longer, he hopes to settle down.
“I feel like, especially now as a teacher, I’d like to get settled here, and eventually start a family and slow things down,” Walker said. “A deployment would kind of make that a little bit more challenging.”
Walker knew he wanted to be a teacher in his junior year in high school, after moving to a new school where he was picked on.
“My history class was the one place where my teacher made it an atmosphere of inclusion,” Walker said. “It was just a comfortable place to be, and so it was that year that decided I would be a teacher because I wanted to create that same atmosphere for other people.”
Walker is passionate about history; he believes that a foundation in history is critical for understanding and solving current problems.
“I think that you need to understand history to prepare for future problems and for what’s going on today,” Walker said. ”I wanted to explain [history] and have it make sense for other people, so they can better understand what’s happening today and in today’s society.”
Both of Walker’s parents graduated from FHS, and he lived in Warrenton until he was eight, so he knew he wanted a position here. He eventually came across a position as assistant football coach, and later, an opening for a social studies teacher.
“As soon as I saw [the opening for] assistant coach, I knew this was God telling me I need to be there,” Walker said.
Both teaching and his service in the National Guard have helped him develop skills in leadership, communication, and organization; he has also developed the ability to understand people and how they need to be taught. His experiences in the military allow him to share perspectives on world events with his students.
“I think it’s really cool because any time I show a video from the news, I can explain to these kids why it happened, and then I can give them first-hand experience of what we’re doing to combat it, and why we’re doing that,” Walker said. “I think that adds a really cool twist to things that you don’t usually get from a teacher.”
~katie johnston, features director