A decades-long connection between Burbank resident Carla Walker and the Glendale Unified School District will soon enter a new phase.
The graduate of Balboa Elementary as well as Toll middle and Hoover high schools has spent 30 consecutive years working in the district, starting not too long after her stint as a student.
That familiarity, tranquility and consistency will change next month when Walker retires after seven years as principal at Marshall Elementary.
“It’s very bittersweet because I am so blessed to have job[s] that I loved for 30 years,” said Walker, a San Diego Padres fan who plans to travel to a lot more games in her free time. “I know that it’s rare, too.”
Walker added, “I think about the people and relationships, the parents, students and staff and, after all these years, I’ve worked with so many people. It’s shocking how fast 30 years goes by.”
Except for the time Walker earned her bachelor’s degree in English and teaching credential from UC Riverside, she’s almost exclusively been a student, teacher or administrator with Glendale Unified.
“I’ve never worked in another district,” said Walker, who also earned a master’s degree in educational administration from the University of La Verne. “That’s huge, and I can’t say enough about how wonderful the district is. I feel a lifelong connection to all my schools as a student, administrator and teacher.”
One of those early connections took place in 1989 when Walker’s former elementary school principal, Ken Henisey, offered the future educator her first teaching job at Muir Elementary.
Walker eventually spent 15 years as a teacher and 15 years as an administrator at the elementary level at Fremont, Horace Mann, Marshall, Monte Vista, Muir and Valley View schools.
She said she’s “still in contact” with Henisey and credits him with helping her find another long association.
“It was when I was at John Muir that I met my husband, Bill,” Walker said. “He taught sixth grade, and I taught first grade, and that’s another interesting connection I’ve made thanks to Glendale Unified.”
While Walker has certainly enjoyed the local school district, those she’s worked with have tried to return the favor.
Marshall first-grade teacher Anita Jaeger has completed 30 years with the school and said she knew Walker “fit right in” when she arrived on campus.
“She has been an amazing principal, and we are going to miss her so much,” Jaeger said. “She is a very caring, trusting, fair and organized principal. Most of our staff has been here for 20 or more years, so we have developed strong relationships with each other. We are a family.”
Denise Barnard, a longtime administrative secretary at Marshall, has worked closely with Walker, but said she thinks the most accurate commentary comes from the school’s students.
“Carla is well-loved by all,” Barnard said. “Children are the best judges of character I've ever met, and they all brighten up any time Carla is around them. They love and respect her.”
Like Walker, Marshall Elementary teacher Elizabeth Tamez also attended elementary, middle and high school with Glendale Unified and has spent the past 15 years teaching special education in the district.
While Tamez lauds Walker for showing up at Halloween dressed in a different costume every year and is amazed by the principal’s wardrobe of more than 50 Christmas sweaters, she said it’s Walker’s compassion and empathy that stand out most.
“She supports us when we have issues, whether it’s work-related or something going on in our personal life,” Tamez said. “She always makes time for her staff and students. She makes us always feel appreciated and important.”