An inspirational leader who has spent her entire career – nearly 50 years – insisting on excellence in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is the 2017 Charlotte Post Foundation Educator of the Year.
Dr. Daisy Walker was among a very few African-American teachers at Randolph Middle School when she started teaching eighth-grade English in 1969. Through 17 years at Randolph, she expected the best from her students.
“With students,” she declares firmly, “you have to demand excellence. They want excellence and they want to be disciplined.”
The Charlotte Post Foundation will honor Walker at The Charlotte Post Best banquet on Saturday, September 16, at the Hilton Center City.
“Daisy Walker has spent many years providing guidance and direction to the many students with whom she was involved,” said Gerald Johnson, publisher of The Charlotte Post. “She has long served as an advocate for underserved students in our community.”
After Randolph, Walker was assistant principal, then principal at Garinger High, and principal at Wilson Middle. Though she “technically” retired in 2006, she since has worked with an entity that furnished new schools in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, then signed on with West Charlotte High as coordinator of volunteers in the Project LIFT Program.
Originally from Wilmington, NC, she earned a bachelor’s from Winston-Salem State University and holds a doctorate in Educational Leadership from UNC Charlotte. She has won scores of admirers and produced top achievers at every stop.
Truly caring is the key, Walker said. “You’ve got to genuinely care about all students. You have to believe that no matter where they live, or whatever happens around them, that they have some worth. And you have to convince them.”
“Believe in yourself,” is what Larita Barber said Walker taught her when she was an eighth-grader at Randolph. “She taught me to know my potential,” added the senior vice president for Community Engagement at Goodwill Industries.
Barber remembers doing poorly on a test only to be forced by Walker to retake it. She performed much better the second time.
“She was a stern auntie,” said Barber. “She gave tough love.”
“I call her auntie because I’ve known her so long,” said Yolanda Johnson, proprietor of SB&J Enterprises, which owns and operates airport concessions, including several at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport.
Johnson met Walker 20 years ago through her mother Sue Johnson, a retired teacher and principal in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.
“Although I haven’t been in a classroom with her, I’ve had her as a life coach,” said Johnson. “She taught me to always be prepared and do your homework.”
Fernando Little was a student leader at Garinger High when his junior class petitioned Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools executives to elevate Walker to principal. The promotion came through, Little said, and members of the class of 1994 are convinced their efforts made a difference.
“She taught me my contribution can always be bigger than my circumstance,” said Little.
Walker helped Little get a full scholarship to Appalachian State University to study Business Administration. After roles with Bank of America and Mission Health in Asheville, Little is assistant vice president in Human Resources for Carolinas Health Care in Charlotte.
Because Walker is so well-connected, said Dr. Timisha Barnes-Jones, West Charlotte High’s principal, she has made a tremendous positive impact with LIFT. Barnes-Jones sees Walker as a mentor.
“She has experience as a principal and I often turn to her for advice,” Barnes-Jones said. “She brings a supportive and nurturing spirit to everything she does. She embodies our vision at West Charlotte where we believe all students can succeed.”
With pervasive technology and younger parents, students have changed, Walker said. “But relationships and caring and kindness, they do not change.”
Walker is also a community leader. She is president of the Charlotte chapter of The Links Incorporated, a national women’s organization, and belongs to Delta Sigma Theta. She is a deacon in Friendship Baptist Church, which she joined in 1973. For 10 years while at Randolph Middle, she also taught English at Central Piedmont Community College in its high school completion program.
The Post Best banquet draws more than 400 attendees annually and is the main fundraiser for The Charlotte