Avi Cantor & Brendan Hall
One of the newest members of SLA’s teaching community is a true collage of a person. Digital Video and Photography Teacher Anna Walker-Roberts’ eclectic collage features a love of video with roots that draw from acting, a love of the outdoors, rap music, her husband, and her visions for the future of SLA’s Dig Vid and Photo programs.
College life and getting into video
Ms. Walker-Roberts attended the Savannah College of Art and Design where she majored in theater. In her academic work, there was a lot of overlap between video and theater, and she soon became mesmerized with how film gives the audience the opportunity to experience a story over and over again without having to go to a theater.
She started out not by manning the camera, but acting, casting, producing or directing films. She soon began to investigate what many of her friends with film majors were doing with their cameras. Despite not being able to use much of the equipment, she immersed herself in editing and creating film, photo, and video.
She stayed on at SCAD for a graduate degree in film. However, after finishing that degree in 2014, her career took a completely different turn.
Getting into teaching
Ms. Walker-Roberts first teaching gig was at her high school where she started a new program for kids that were behind in school either because English was their second language or they have been in jail or were a juvenile delinquent.
She describes using “film and theater to help them learn how to tell stories with language pull them out of their shells work on communication.”
She fell in love with teaching and earned her teaching certificate through that program.
“There’s not that insane pressure of if I were doing videos as my full-time job to make money off of everything I’m doing,” Ms. Walker-Roberts explained. Teaching “gave me the freedom to like do things that I am creatively interested in while getting paid to be a teacher.”
Her next teaching job was as a substitute teacher in the special education department for a school in Missouri, soon after marrying her college sweetheart, Adler Roberts. They moved to Lancaster shortly thereafter when her husband found a job there.
Emerging as a part of the SLA community
Not long after the move, someone introduced her to the principal of Linville Hill Mennonite School who wanted to convert their high school into a project-based learning environment. She had just read the book Deeper Learning by Edward McGrath and Monica Martinez in which SLA is mentioned.
She ended up sitting in on a bunch of SLA classes and reporting back what she discovered about project-based learning. Towards the end of the school year, she sat in on former Dig Vid and Photo teacher and current Rough Cut director Doug Herman’s classroom.
In addition to helping turn her old high school into a project-based environment, she taught Spanish which she explained, through bursts of laughter, that she was far from qualified to teach.
“They were like ‘you teach languages so it’s fine right’ and I was like ‘ahh uhh yeah hola’’’. She also taught English and a video elective.
She had taught at Linville Hill for a little under a year when her husband decided to leave the theater he was employed at in order to do more freelance acting work in Philadelphia and New York. The couple decided to move to Philly because it would be a better middle ground for her and her husband.
This move also gave her the ability to apply to SLA on “a wild shot”. She thought that “they’re not going to have an opening, but I loved observing at the school and was excited to work there. I thought my best to teach drama”.
At that same time, Mr. Herman announced that he was leaving the school to pursue running the Rough Cut program full-time.
Ms. Walker-Roberts went through the interview process to become a teacher at SLA and her potential and love of teaching were immediately recognized by Engineering Teacher John Kamal.
“She had insightful and important student-centered responses in the interview. She continually brought back the questions to how it would impact the students,” Mr. Kamal said. She was given the job in the summer of 2017 and already has visions about the possible direction of the Dig Vid and Photo programs.
Ms. Walker-Roberts sees herself as “standing on [Mr. Herman’s] shoulders” when it comes to her visions for the Digital Video and Photography programs. She wants to capitalize on what Mr. Herman has built but wants to integrate her acting experience into the program.
She wants to show her students how to act, cast, produce and direct film as well as edit it. She also hopes that her husband can assist in some of the films and share his acting and pre-production writing background. She also has plenty of interests outside of school.
Life outside SLA
Of course, Ms. Walker-Roberts’ life doesn’t revolve just around her school life. The Texas native loves everything about the outdoors. She loves to hike, ski, kneeboard go camping, and so much more. She also loves to travel and has been to several countries including Mexico and Israel. She even developed a love of rap music from her students in her first teaching experience.
Ms. Walker Roberts collage wouldn’t be complete without her new job at SLA.
“When I got the job I was like so happy I needed to drop to the floor and pinch myself,” she exclaimed. She hopes that the happiness of that day will continue to excite her for years to come.