Walker Elementary Opens- An Interview with Firewall’s Curriculum Specialist

Meet Caitlin, Firewall’s Curriculum Specialist! She recently completed her Master’s in Elementary Education at Nova Southeastern University. There she learned different teaching styles and approaches that prepared her for her role at Firewall Centers. Caitlin created the lessons for Walker Elementary and also oversees their implementation. So grab a seat and join the conversation about Firewall’s new Center at Walker!

1. What was the first week with the kids like?
The kids were all excited to be in Firewall! They were very respectful, listened to instruction, and responded to the structure…which isn’t normal for Elementary school students but the school has high expectations for these students and they rise to meet them.

During the first week, the students wrote all about themselves in an “All About Me” worksheet. Then they swapped papers with a classmate they didn’t know and presented what they had learned about them! This taught them to summarize a text which is a Florida Standard.

They also wrote letters to their future selves that they will open at the end of the year. The letters included academic, character, and personal goals they want to achieve. The letters are wrapped in a piece of yarn that measured their height so at the end of the year they will see how much they grew!

2. What work went into preparing for Firewall’s opening at Walker?
The biggest thing we did to prepare was to meet with the school staff to understand the school’s culture and values. Then we created a curriculum that aligns with the school’s instructional calendar and teaches all the mandated standards while making it fun for them to learn.

3. What is the ultimate goal of Firewall being at Walker Elementary?
All of the students we will be working with at Walker Elementary are reading below grade level. So our goal is to work on their reading skills so that by the end of the year, they are reading on grade level and testing proficient. 

4. What role do Firewall Mentors play?
They teach the daily lessons to their small group of students, they implement activities, and then communicate to me how the students are learning and where they may be struggling. From there, we create interventions to help the students improve their skills.

5. What are the lessons and how do you create them?

The lessons were created to mirror what the teachers at Walker Elementary are teaching throughout the day. We met with the classroom teachers and obtained their Standards calendar. Thus, allowing Firewall to function as an extension of the day, reinforcing the concepts taught in the classrooms and improves learning outcomes.

All of the lessons teach the Florida State Standards through cross-curricular lessons. In other words, our lessons integrate at least two content areas. The overarching theme for the year is culture. Over the course of the year, students will ‘travel’ to many different countries. As they are exposed to different cultures, they will gain and understanding for others and learn to celebrate their differences. Our students will see people from all backgrounds, which helps them connect with the curriculum.

The goal is to make learning fun, while teaching the Florida State Standards in an effective way. Some topics include building and testing boats, writing an autobiography, and reading the Cinderella story from three different countries.

We will also have career days with the students to talk with them about how important school is now and get them excited about their future! Different businessman and businesswoman will come to share with the students about their careers. It’s really about getting the students interested and to create goals that will propel them through their education.

6. Why do you enjoy working with the students so much?

I know my calling in life is to educate students. The Firewall students come from difficult backgrounds. While some may see this as a hindrance, I see the opportunity. Firewall believes in all children and wants to empower all students to succeed. I have been blessed to see how students grow in our program, both academically and personally. Our students receive a rigorous education in a small group setting. As we pour love into these students lives and build relationships with them, we are able to propel them forward.

Our students are also given responsibilities in the classroom and encouraged for completing tasks. As a result, they come to intrinsically value helping others. We see our students transform into servant leaders. One parent told us that her students come home excited to tell her about the lessons they learned and to teach her what they’re learning at Firewall.

I love working with the students because I see God at work in their lives. He enables our staff and works through them for His glory. It’s a blessing to be a part of.


You can learn more about Firewall Centers here or give today to support the tutoring and mentoring of low-income students.