Profile: Ryan Walters
By Katie Clement
From day one, Ryan Walters (’10) has been influenced by and invested in education. From high school and college teachers to family to career, it has had a big impact on his life.
“I had several teachers who made a tremendous difference in my life while attending McAlester Public Schools,” said Walters. “I knew while sitting in my high school classes that I wanted to be a teacher and have the influence on students like so many of my teachers had on me. My mother and father also always stressed to me how important it was to follow my passion and follow Christ’s teachings. They knew I loved working with young people and always encouraged me to be a teacher.”
Walters graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in social science from Harding.
“I was heavily influenced by my professors in the history department and the College of Education. The lessons I learned in those classrooms have had a tremendous impact on my career and on my life. I also loved being able to be a part of such a Christian atmosphere and developed lifelong friendships.”
After graduation, Walters spent eight years teaching advanced placement courses in world history, U.S. history and U.S. government, as well as on-level history classes, special education classes, and AVID (advanced via individual determination classes) at McAlester High School in his hometown. Now, he teaches AP U.S. history at Millwood High School and McAlester High School as a pilot course through the Oklahoma supplemental course program.
“I’ve been teaching for a decade now and it’s been amazing to see the innovation and growth in our state,” said Walters. “This has of course been expedited over the last year because of the pandemic. I know this year has been a hard one for all educators. I am in awe of what my fellow teachers have been able to accomplish together over the last 10 months, and I look forward to seeing how we’ll continue meeting our student’s education needs.”
In 2016, he was named as an Oklahoma Teacher of the Year finalist by the Oklahoma State Department, and in 2019 he was appointed executive director of Oklahoma Achieves, an effort founded by the State Chamber of Oklahoma to better engage the business community in education.
In addition to these responsibilities, Walter serves as the CEO of Every Kid Counts Oklahoma. This program was launched in the summer of 2020 and works to help establish the vision for the organization and build awareness across the state.
“EKCO is an education-focused organization that is empowering teachers, parents and community leaders to improve our education system for all Oklahoma students,” said Walters. “Recently we have partnered with Gov. Stitt’s office to allocate the Bridge the Gap Digital Wallet grant to low-income families to help them purchase the supplies, materials and technology needed to have a successful virtual school year.”
In September 2020, Walters was appointed Secretary of Education for Oklahoma and has been working on a number of initiatives that will help students, teachers and the Oklahoma education system as a whole.
“As secretary of education, I have the incredible opportunity to connect with people and organizations across the state. It excites me that we can partner together as people who share a common interest and passion in bettering education. I feel like my role is to be a champion for all Oklahoma students, and to me that is an incredibly exciting opportunity.”
Walters says he didn’t realize how formative his K-12 education was until he stepped foot into the real world. Now he is invested in giving that same experience to others.
“I can clearly see how the influence, support and care of my teachers and mentors shaped me into the professional I am today. Through my work, I hope to ensure every student has access to the resources, individualized care and supportive mentors they need to walk across the graduation stage and to be set up for success well beyond their school years.”
“Education can truly change the trajectory of young people’s lives. God has given everyone of us a unique set of talents that can improve the lives of those around us, and as adults it is our responsibility to help young people find and develop those talents. That journey is an incredibly rewarding one.”