Arundel's winning coach emphasizes fun, learning Honored: The veteran teacher and coach is one of two in Maryland selected for the American Teacher Awards in California.

November 05, 1996|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,SUN STAFF

For Bernie Walter, coaching sports and teaching academic subjects are not that different. The challenge is the same in both -- helping young people learn.

"If you're going to be a successful coach over a long period of time, then you've got to be a good teacher," said Walter, athletic director and veteran baseball coach at Arundel Senior High School. "The exact same processes occur in a classroom that occur on the athletic field. You have to be prepared. You have to have objectives. You have to give students an opportunity to learn on their own."

His approach to coaching and his winning record recently earned him recognition in the American Teacher Awards, an annual program sponsored by the Walt Disney Co. and McDonald's that attracted 1,500 applicants this year. Walter, 54, who is also chairman of the health and physical education department at Arundel, is one of 36 teachers selected as honorees in 12 categories, including coaching, English, and mathematics. He is one of two teachers from Maryland among the honorees.

Walter has honed his philosophy in 22 years of coaching baseball at Arundel. During that time the Wildcats have racked up seven state championships, 11 regional titles, and 14 county championships, including the shared title with Old Mill Senior High this year. Among the 45 players Walter has coached who have made it to the major leagues is Atlanta Braves pitcher Denny Neagle.

"I think the most important thing you do as a coach is make it fun," he said. "Fun first, learning second, then you win."

Each of the 36 teachers will receive $2,500. At an awards show in California in December, one honoree will be selected from each of 12 teaching fields to win another $2,500. The 36 teachers will select one "Outstanding Teacher of 1996" from among the 12, who will receive $25,000, with an additional $10,000 going to that teacher's school district.

Walter, a Brooklyn Park native, said the Disney-McDonald's recognition is different because of the breadth of the field and because the selection relates more directly to teaching.

"That's kind of humbling," the Linthicum Heights resident said, leaning back in a green-cushioned chair in his small ground-floor office. "It's really nice that you are respected for your teaching ability."

In addition to supervising sports and the physical education and health department at Arundel, Walter also teaches classes in family life, or sex education, and sports medicine -- programs he helped develop.

Part of Walter's classroom approach is to make the lessons relevant to students.

For example, to teach his students in sports medicine how to properly remove protective rubber gloves without spreading contaminants, Walter mixed homegrown kale, chives, peppers, garlic and other ingredients into a green, foul-smelling concoction. Students had to submerge their gloved hands in the goo, then remove the gloves without getting the substance on their skin or clothes.

And part of Walter's coaching philosophy is to bring more than drills to the practice field. A 100-page book that he is updating in the off-season for his players includes motivational quotes and a section on philosophy in addition to sections on pitching and base-running.

Arundel pitcher Kurt Light, 18, appreciates that Walter cares how players do in the classroom as well as on the baseball diamond.

"He's helped me with my grades," Light said. "I've been a little bit lazy, and he has stayed on me."

The American Teacher Awards will be broadcast on the Disney Channel Dec. 14 and 15.

Pub Date: 11/05/96

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