Stories Across the Agency: Finding Joy with Walter Stanford
Growing Community Through Expanded Learning
In this month’s installment of Stories Across the Agency, we interviewed Expanded Learning Site Coordinator Walter Stanford about his work, his background and finding joy at Puget Sound ESD. If you’re not familiar with Walter yet, you will be soon as he’ll be flexing his acting expertise as a co-host of the upcoming All Staff Celebration!
PSESD:First off, could you tell us a bit about your role and which program you work with?
Walter Stanford (WS): As a Site Coordinator with Expanded Learning (LTFS), I serve as a “bridge” between family and school cultures. I support academic and social emotional success of any student demonstrating a need for growth and improvement in either area, or both. Additionally, I increase student engagement in learning and opportunities for more individualized attention that culminate in activities for active inclusive learning. In my work I ensure youth voice in the decision making process, and I’m intentional about educating and increasing student awareness and knowledge of cultural responsiveness/racism using age appropriate tools. In this way, I’m helping to create a safe place in which students feel secure and protected.
I make it a point to greet all students, even if lined up in a class…We give totally of ourselves emotionally and physically according to the needs of our students.
PSESD:What does your work look like on a day-to-day basis?
WS: Upon arrival, I take a walk around the school, stopping first in the office to check-in and connect to see if there are any needs or gaps I can help out with. After that, I’ll walk through the halls to greet any and all students or staff I happen to see. I make it a point to greet all students, even if lined up in a class. Next, I devote some time to planning, connecting with new resources or potential partners, or gathering data for our partners/funders. I’ll spend the next measure of time preparing for the day’s program, making sure that the activity plans have specific learning objectives that connect with the students’ overall curriculum during the school day.
A staff or team meeting follows my preparation in which we dialogue about how we’re doing and what’s working versus what’s not working within our program. By the time the bell rings, we make our way to the gym and enthusiastically welcome every student to the program. Once the students are there they have our full and undivided attention. We give totally of ourselves emotionally and physically according to the needs of our students.
PSESD:What led you to join Expanded Learning Programs?
WS: Community. As a child I distinctly remember how members of the community and school both played a major role in inspiring me to do well in school, and to cultivate and nurture any gifts I had so that I could use them to help others. My home life was dysfunctional and often harrowing, so I depended on school staff and the community at school to direct and guide me to a pathway of education as a way out of an otherwise unstable situation. I have always believed (and continue to believe) that school and community working together exponentially increases a child’s opportunities to succeed, as it did for me. I relate to these children, because I am them.
PSESD:What are some of the joys you encounter in your work that keep you motivated when faced with challenges?
WS: Things that give me joy in my work include:
When a student says “Hi Mr. Walter, see you in HOPE Club today.”
A parent telling me how much they appreciate having their child in our program.
Seeing the expression on a child’s face when I tell them all the positive things they bring to the program.
The many opportunities I get to tell parents, “Do you know what your child did today? I am so proud of them!”
Running, jumping, swinging, skipping and kicking a ball right alongside the kids during Fun Time.
I have always believed (and continue to believe) that school and community working together exponentially increases a child’s opportunities to succeed, as it did for me. I relate to these children, because I am them.
PSESD: Speaking of joy, are you planning on showcasing what brings you joy at the upcoming All Staff Celebration? If so, care to share any sneak peeks of what you’re going to be presenting?
WS: Certainly. I will be sharing a spoken word piece that I am creating to (hopefully) reinvigorate, inspire and bring comfort and hope to everyone regarding the complex and difficult task of transforming the agency through equity and inclusion. There should be something for everyone in the piece, regardless of where they “stand” with it personally. Wish me luck!
PSESD:Anything else you’d like to share with PSESD that people might not know about you?
WS: I am a professionally trained actor and dramatist (2 years of MFA completed), and I never cease to find how I can utilize this experience to complement my work. For the past 10 years I have had the opportunity to write, direct and cast the annual Christmas play at the Washington State History Museum. They are usually more comedic than dramatic, but they’ll always contain deep messages that I hope people will get so that they can have something substantive to reflect on. I’ll have to invite the entire ESD next year! Additionally, I have an idea and storyboard for a play that I would like to write regarding the everyday impact of racism (or lack of understanding accompanying racism) and how this manifests itself in everyday lives.
“Stories Across the Agency”is a new monthly column dedicated to the stories of the people who make up Puget Sound ESD. With over 100 programs across King County, Pierce County, and Bainbridge Island, our goal is to share the experiences of staff throughout the agency to increase awareness around the collective impact of our work. If you or someone you know is interested in sharing stories from your work, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.