Taylor receives Teacher of the Year honor

Every year, the Westlake teachers select an educator who they believe has made a positive impact on the school community for the Educator of the Year award. This year, after nearly 20 years of teaching at Westlake, Valerie Taylor had the honor of receiving the award.

In order for a teacher to receive such an award, they have to have characteristics that make them truly stand out as an influential educator.

“You have to like kids, and you have to like learning,” said Taylor, who currently serves as instructional partner for the English department. “You have to be devoted to those two things, and that they’re learning and enjoying it.”

Other educators throughout her life have motivated her to excel in the classroom.

“I’ve had lots of teachers, some of them my students because I do learn from them,” she said. “I worked very closely with a professor at UT named Dr. Fairbanks. We co-founded the writing project at the University of Texas. She was my mentor throughout my master’s degree. My husband [band director Kerry Taylor] is also a teacher, and being able to have conversations with each other about teaching has always been a really big influence on me.”

Originally, she went to college for a degree in law, and then halfway through decided to transition to teaching.

“When I went to college, I was actually planning to go to law school and become a lawyer,” Taylor said. “I even worked in a law firm in the summers, and eventually came to the realization that’s not what I wanted to do. I was also a section leader for the Longhorn band at UT, and I said to myself, ‘Well, what do I like doing?’ I loved teaching people, so decided to get my degree in humanities which is a much broader field.”

Even though she hadn’t always wanted to be a teacher, Taylor’s teaching history goes even further back than she expected.

“When my mom passed away last year and we were cleaning out her stuff, we found this old chalkboard, and my sister said to me, ‘You used to always make me play school with you.’ I was pretty surprised.”

After teaching English for most of her career, Taylor moved on to more behind-the-scenes work. She now co-teaches the AP Capstone research course and does a lot of “teaching teachers.” Even though she may not be in the classroom all the time, she continues thriving to make the English department and Westlake a wonderful learning environment.