Alumni Spotlight: Rachel Caldwell (’06)
“I have really wanted to be a teacher my whole life,” says Rachel Caldwell (’06). “However, two experiences at MLWGS really cemented my desire to pursue a career in education: the time I spent volunteering with the Newtowne Tutoring Program, and my senior year mentorship with Annie Campbell, a second grade teacher at Fox Elementary. She helped me create a vision for my own future as a teacher.” Rachel now teaches at Burnley-Moran Elementary School in Charlottesville, a position she accepted after graduating from the Curry School of Education at UVA.
In Rachel’s fourth grade classroom, “We talk about issues big and small, like how to respectfully ask someone to stop poking you with a pencil to why there is hate in the world and where it came from,” she says. Over the years, she has been part of planting and building a permaculture garden and a monarch garden in their community garden, creating a senior citizen/second grader pen pal program, and taking kids on weekend field trips.
Rachel’s job doesn’t end in the classroom, and neither does what she loves about it. “Being part of a community is one of my most favorite things,” she says. “Teaching siblings, watching my first class of students become high schoolers, seeing parents and teachers and students out and about on weekends, hanging out with other teachers on Friday afternoons after an exhausting week.”
“It’s hard to balance all of the balls you are expected to juggle as a teacher,” she says. “But I am so fortunate to be a part of a vibrant learning community.” The work Rachel puts into her job has not gone unnoticed. In 2017, she was one of just eight educators statewide to receive the prestigious Virginia Lottery Super Teacher Award.
“Teachers that challenged me to be better and also appreciated me for who I was are the teachers I look back on and really appreciate,” she says. “And that includes so, so many teachers at Maggie Walker.” As she looks at the year ahead, she reflects that after a difficult summer in Charlottesville, she’s particularly looking forward to “digging deeper with my fourth graders this year when it comes to discussing hard topics.” She adds, “We are going to read so many great books together! I am also looking forward to continuing the pen pal program and getting out into the garden as much as possible. And who knows, something amazing might happen that is yet to even be on the horizon!”
This profile originally appeared in our 2016-17 annual report.