Spring on the York College campus

Ashley Walter (Hengemihle) '13

Instructional Lead Teacher
Vansville Elementary School, Prince George’s County Public Schools
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” - Reinhold Niebuhr “If you don’t want to be disappointed you can’t have any expectations.” -advice given by a very close family member

Current City: Ellicott City, Maryland

Hometown: Audubon, Pennsylvania

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

My greatest achievement cannot be found in a single timestamped event in the past. Rather, I identify my greatest achievement as my continuous ability and intentional decision to model daily for my two children a strong work ethic, how to practice empathy, respect and remorse, and the importance of celebrating successes while overcoming obstacles. This continuous achievement requires constant reflection and would be unattainable without the unconditional love and support of my husband, Brooks Walter.

How did York College help you get to where you are today?

York College played a large role in contributing to where I am today, both personally and professionally. Some of the meaningful experiences included participating in college clubs and activities, joining first as a member and then later holding leadership positions in the Alpha Sigma Tau sorority, and being employed through the college at both Grumbacher Sport and Fitness Center and Phonathon. Through these experiences I had opportunities to develop the skills needed to effectively build and maintain rapport with others, take initiative, operationalize and execute the task at hand, and observe, reflect, and develop leadership structures and traits. York College provided me with the opportunity to explore diverse interests, student organizations, and practice independence while in a small and inclusive community environment. In regards to the coursework preparing for a career in education, York College’s Education Program left no stone unturned in preparing graduates with the content and experience needed to successfully enter the field of education. I continually identify how fortunate I am to have earned my degree at such a critical point in the history of education. All of my teacher preparation courses focused heavily on and enforced high expectations of being proficient in understanding the Common Core State Standards and Danielson’s Framework for Teaching. My collegiate experience with these two areas greatly contributed to my success as a new educator upon graduating in 2013. I am very grateful for the blended format of traditional college courses, field experience, and student teaching that comprised the teacher preparation program, as well as the extra-curricular opportunities to be involved on campus.

What was your favorite class/professor at York College and how did it/they impact you?

While attending York College, there were two very memorable and impactful experiences in my coursework. My advisor, Mr. Robert Lindsay, is to be credited for my continued commitment to the field of education both while taking courses and still to this day in determining the driving force of my day-to-day work flow and continued leadership growth. When the time came to select courses for the following semester, I always created my schedule around Mr. Lindsay’s course offerings to ensure I had as much time as possible to learn from his experiences and benefit from his feedback. While the learning environment of Mr. Lindsay’s courses was more casual and had a conversational and reflective format, submitted assignments and personal and professional growth across the semester were held to the highest of standards. His office door was always open for advice on things related to education, and also on things related to friendships, conflicts, and finding resolutions. When I received notice of his retirement from the college, it brought a great deal of sadness, as I knew future students would not be as lucky as I was to have him as a supporter in the way he helped so many others just as he helped me. However, the sadness was paired with happiness and relief in knowing his time and compassion could be spent solely on his family and other passions. The most memorable and impactful course taken at York College was EDU 470 Professional Development, taught by Dr. McGough. The premise of the course was to directly address the nuts and bolts of both preparing to secure a teaching position and building competency to meet the expectations on Day 1 and beyond of a teaching job. This was done by both working through logistical elements such as registering for PRAXIS exams, participating in mock interviews, completing the state standards application, etc., as well as through addressing the personal wonderings and anxieties involved in moving from learning how to be a teacher to actually being the sole adult in a classroom responsible for the safety, wellbeing, and intellectual growth of a set of students. Role playing scenarios, writing tasks, and conflict analysis involving the needed skills to communicate with school administrators, parents/families, and community members were critical in my preparation of being an educator and leader. In many ways, the perspective, reflection, and implementation of educational core content gained in this culminating course attributed to my accomplishment of securing a teaching job prior to graduation. In hearing many colleagues repeatedly share after challenging situations “Well, they don’t teach you how to do that in teacher school,” I am reminded of how appreciative I am that Dr. McGough embedded the unthinkable experiences and real-life topics in education as part of the teacher preparation program in courses like EDU 470 Professional Development.

What do you enjoy the most about your chosen career?

My chosen career of education comes with a great deal of unprecedented and unpredictable challenges and limited financial compensation. A career in education often carries an undesirable reputation and receives primarily negative publicity on news platforms and social media, however, working in education was a choice made by me, and me alone, when determining how I wanted to use my time and talent to better the world. I chose to do this initially through one student, then one classroom, now one teacher, and hopefully in the future, one school at a time. I continually need to remind myself, and fellow colleagues, of this as we show up each and every day as frontline workers to protect and serve our future leaders and future participants in today’s troubled society. It is through revisiting why I entered the field of education that I am able to identify the past and current enjoyable parts of my chosen career. I most enjoy feeling and seeing the impact of my efforts through the observable growth of those I work with, students and staff alike. The student population I engage with, the colleagues I am charged with supporting, and the administration I currently work under expect me to ask the hard questions, hold high expectations, and work collaboratively to accomplish whatever is needed to get a task done regardless of how small or heavy the lift. The moments of synergy and growth when students, fellow colleagues, and my own personal strengths collide are where the highlights of my chosen career in education exist.

What is the best advice you have ever received and from whom?

There are two pieces of advice that continually guide my daily thought process, decision making, and reflection. One piece of advice is very well known and was written by theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” This advice was given to my family as we went through a challenging time and has forever changed my outlook on how I approach my own personal struggles with anxiety, as well continuing to shape my approach to conflict resolution. The second piece of advice was given by a very close family member and involves the acceptance of the idea, “If you don’t want to be disappointed you can’t have any expectations.” Although this is advice I still need to be often reminded of by the source that delivered it to me years ago, the reality of its deep meaning can be made quite simple through a shift in mindset. While these two pieces of advice are not directly grounded in the educational industry, they have certainly had a great impact on my own personal growth which I believe attribute to my professional practice.

View all of the 2022 Spartans of the Year award recipients.