Celebrating True Heroes
People don’t get into the business of teaching to become heroes. People choose the field of education to make a difference in the lives of kids. The hero part simply comes with the territory.
by Graysen Walles
Regular contributor to the Gazette
May 1, 2009
Heroes in our culture are usually celebrated in comic books or the movies. Superman, Spiderman, Mr. America, Aquaman, and the like remind us of our values, ethics, and, at times, our social mores. They also represent the best of humanity, both in physical abilities and moral aptitude, as they struggle against the forces of evil only to win in the end. Evil never wins over our heroes; they may experience occasional temporal defeats, perhaps, but never for the long term. Our good guys and superwomen always come out on top. We celebrate them and sometimes worship the symbolism and truths that those heroes represent.
The real world has no heroes who can jump over buildings in a single bound, fly across the sky at lightning-fast speeds, or stop bullets with their naked hands. However, everyday people can impact our world, our nations, states, and cities, and our local neighborhoods with heroic measures. These people put their pants on one leg at a time, as the saying goes, and face the same types of challenges that we all do. As a matter of fact, the challenges that many of our everyday heroes experience far surpass those that many of us face.
Think of the single parent who works, supports her (or his) children, and somehow makes time to invest in the neighborhood, church, and/or school. Consider the city councilperson who writes a grant for a community center to keep kids off the street. I could go on and on providing solid examples of everyday heroes because these people surround us and help us to be better than we could ever be on our own.
All too often, these everyday people are overlooked, but many will never say a word because they are not looking to be patted on the back or celebrated. What they do is merely a part of their own values and personal ethic. Most teachers fit into this category—they are not looking for a pat on the back or a formal citation. Just like other everyday heroes, good teachers teach and enjoy it for reasons that are their own.
That said, some teachers make enough impact on our world that celebration and praise—along the lines of what we give to the superheroes above—are relevant, meaningful, and appropriate. I believe teachers greatly deserve this kind of glory, even if they do not ask for it. The majority of non-teachers do not comprehend the magnitude of the demands, challenges, and risks public school teachers face. Some of those people even say, “It’s their job; they should do it and stop complaining.” Yes, teaching is just a job to some, but good teachers don’t see what they do as a job. They see teaching as a career, a calling, a spiritual commitment. These are the qualities that enable everyday teaching professionals to heroically overcome the hazards and obstacles of the education field.
For the past 20 years, Graysen Walles has achieved notable accomplishments across a diverse industry spectrum, delivering stellar performance in the military, non-profit, and education segments. After honing his expertise in strategic planning, operations, budget management, program development, and personnel for the U.S. Air Force and two non-profit organizations, Graysen made a smooth professional transition to public education.
Initially cast in the role of Paraprofessional in a middle school, Graysen quickly advanced to a certified teaching position in the area of Special Education at the high school level. While in the role of classroom teacher, he developed curricula and led instruction in the disciplines of micro and macroeconomics, geography, and English language, creating learning frameworks that accommodated a range of learning styles for both mainstream and special education students.
While successfully managing his teaching responsibilities, Graysen took the lead in district- and school-wide improvement, fueling the critical relationship-building process with parents and members of the community to unite stakeholders in a common vision and goal and make progress towards building a cutting edge youth leadership program focused on higher performing students enrolled in under-resourced communities. The program, The Elite Scholars, actively engages over 350 students from all walks of life. The common goal of these students is to perform with excellence in the areas academics, service, faith and leadership.
Graysen achieved his doctoral degree from Fielding Graduate University; Master of Divinity at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and B.A. from Wayland Baptist University. He currently serves in the United States Air Force Reserves and works as a school administrator in Atlanta, GA. Graysen is married with three sons and they reside in Atlanta, GA.