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Mike Walls named Citadel Heart of Learning Finalist

Mike Walls, a horticulture teacher for the Chester County Intermediate Unit’s (CCIU) Learning Center is one of 15 outstanding educators selected as a finalist in the 2018 Citadel Heart of Learning Awards. Over 2,000 nominations were received this year in what is the equivalent of the Oscars for Chester County’s best and brightest teachers.

“I am honored to be recognized as it reminds me that others outside of our walls know that what we do here is making a big difference,” said Walls, who has been a teacher for almost 20 years. “I want students to become the best they can be, to make sense of their lives and to find their niche. Specifically, I want my students to learn from every experience – good and bad, victories and losses – to be hardworking and to be good people who can survive this world and who will try to make it better. I want them to learn and understand that they play a part in it all.”

Walls started at the CCIU in 2001, teaching in emotional support and autism support classrooms for over 11 years before switching gears. This year marks his eighth year in horticulture. Walls states that all of his students, in addition to his own children, continue to teach him what is really important.

“Mike embodies all the qualities of an exceptional educator. He is consistently looking for new and exciting ways to provide his students with authentic learning experiences that will spark their interest and motivation,” said Kristin Gallahan, principal of the CCIU Learning Center. “In addition to his student-centered focus, Mike always looks for ways to paint the CCIU in the best light, contributing to non-profit projects that allow community members to experience IU customer service. With the ideas and innovation that Mike brings to the job on a daily basis, he is truly inspiring to work alongside, and I consider myself lucky to be able to support his classroom.”

“Mike’s focus on collaboration and student engagement inspires the Learning Center team and motivates his students to push harder and reach beyond their limits,” said Dr. Jacalyn Auris, CCIU director of student services. “His teaching expands beyond the boundaries of the classroom and creates a true community feeling within the school.”

The Citadel Heart of Learning Award is a collaboration between Citadel and the Chester County Intermediate Unit, designed to recognize and thank Chester County’s teachers. It raises awareness of the impact that their hard work and dedication have on their students, the student’s families and on the entire community. Since its inception, thousands of teachers have been nominated and hundreds have been named finalists.

According to Walls, winning the award validates working together with a stellar team of people. “I work with some of the most amazing professionals. They are patient, they are talented, they are hardworking. They care about each other and, most importantly, they care about what they are doing to change the lives of their students,” he explained.

Each finalist receives $500 to use in his or her classroom. From these 15 finalists, three winners (one high school, one middle school and one elementary school teacher) will be awarded with the Citadel Heart of Learning Award and an additional $1,500.


Photo Caption: Pictured here is Dr. Susan Mateka, Child & Career Development Center principal; Ms. Kristin Gallahan, CCIU Learning Center principal; Mr. Mike Walls, Citadel Heart of Learning finalist and Dr. Jacalyn Auris, CCIU director of student services