Alumnus returns as teacher

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Alumnus returns as teacher

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It was Thanksgiving day and Julia Giddens was resting after a difficult labor when the nurse came in, waiting for the proud parents to name their newborn son.

Michael Walker Sr., the beaming father, scooped up this opportunity of a lifetime and took matters into his own hands, thinking of his favorite character from Greek mythology.

When his wife awoke, she was informed that she had just given birth to her very own Greek warrior, Achilles Jermaine Walker.

Walker, Cal High’s new sports medicine teacher, may be the most aptly named teacher on campus.

After all, how cool is it that the sports med teacher, who doubles as the school’s athletic trainer, has a first name that is a body part?

A 1992 Cal High graduate, Walker is responsible for helping student athletes with their injuries as part of his role as the sports med teacher.

Walker engages in situations dealing with taping up ankles at games to rehab and treatment during school.

“I make sure that we have proper game coverage,” Walker said. “We do anything first-aid wise, from a jammed finger to an anterior cruciate ligament tear (ACL).”

Walker’s advanced sports med class of 19 students acts as athletic trainers for the athletes. They’re each required to have a certain number of hours of experience per quarter.

The students gain crucial experience from this by having hands-on experience and observing the procedures conducted when major injuries occur.

Their responsibilites include learning how to respond to, get proper help for, correctly approach, and treat sports-related injuries. Students learn by doing all this themselves, which is what Walker teaches in both the classroom and out on the field.

“A famous soccer coach once said, ‘You don’t learn how to play piano by running around it’,” said senior Ian Ludeman, who loves learning through first-hand experience that the class provides.

Junior Maddie Hurd, a member of the water polo team, learns how to take care of the body when injuries occur in intro to sports med, which she said is essential knowledge to have as an athlete.

Hurd reaps the benefits from Walker’s skills as the athletic trainer because she feels great during her games.

Students feel like they have a real personal connection with Walker after less than a quarter.

“You could think of him as a friend, but he’s a really good teacher,” senior Peter Kravariotis said.

Walker wants his students to feel this way and he does that by establishing trust.

“I view [our student-teacher interaction] as a partnership,” he said. “My door is always open.”

Walker loves to see students grow from freshmen to seniors, not only as athletes but as a whole.

“Knowing that you had some sort of input from that…it’s kind of cool,” Walker said.

Walker isn’t a stranger to the football field. He played football on it and ran around it as a member of the track team for Cal from 1989 to 1992.

Kathy Tussy, an art teacher, lit up as she reminisced about funny stories from almost 21 years ago regarding her former student, Walker.

“I actually didn’t remember him at first when he approached me at the beginning of this year,” Tussy said sheepishly. “But I soon recognized him because he hasn’t changed from that talkative student in my art class almost 20 years ago.”

A kid at heart, Walker loves to joke around. His students find him easygoing and laidback, almost like one of the students but with more knowledge.

“It’s weird being back [at Cal],” said Walker, who prefers his students to call him Achilles. “I still think that I need to go to class when the bell rings, but then I realize that I have a class to teach!”

In high school, Walker was on the pre-med track when he talked to an adviser and realized that he could combine two things that he loved to do, sports and medicine, and make it into a career.

He graduated from Northern Arizona University in 2002 and interned at Sinagua High School in Arizona from 1999 to 2002.

In early 2003, Walker worked at 24-Hour Fitness but wasn’t satisfied with the work that he was doing.

“It wasn’t what they said it was going to be,” he said.

In 2004, Walker worked at the rehabilitation department at John Muir Hospital in Brentwood for a year before his teaching career began.

A  friend who worked at Diablo Valley College called Walker and told him about a position as a sports med teacher and athletic trainer at Clayton Valley High School.

Walker got the job and taught at Clayton Valley for eight years before coming to Cal and taking over for long-time sports med teacher Shane Borchart, who moved to Texas last summer.

Walker fits right in and passion shines through in the classroom. He uses elements of humour and personal stories to relate to the students, and they all seem to love him.

He didn’t originally intend to be a teacher. Instead, he saw himself on the sidelines, helping athletes with their injuries.

But once he stepped into a classroom and assumed the role of a teacher, he loved it.

“ I couldn’t see myself doing anything else,” Walker said.