The Inspiring Tale of Ms. Maggie Walls’ Enduring Spirit


Sylvie Call

Ms. Walls jokes with her AP Literature class about their end-of-the-year projects.

Sylvie Call, A & E Editor

Teachers are a central part of every student’s life. For every day of every week of the entire school year, students spend an entire hour with one teacher. However, students usually know next to nothing about a teacher’s life experiences other than the offhanded comment during a lesson. With her bubbly personality and cheerful energy, you would never know that english teacher Ms. Maggie Walls has fought and won difficult, life-changing battles.

In 2001, Ms. Walls was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, and in 2010 with a form of myeloma. The first diagnosis of thyroid cancer was more upsetting; she said, “It was shocking. And scary. It’s all the things that you think that it would be because I had such young kids. The triplets were 4, and Jim Lauson was 6. And I knew that if it didn’t go well, they would not know me.”

Despite her fears and the physical obstacles that cancer created, she continued to live her life. Her method of coping consisted of simply not stopping. She continued to be a mother, to read as much as she could, to teach, and more; she said, “I did everything to keep fighting to try to keep a sense of normalcy about me and our family because I found that when I sat at home and I just thought about me, it became overwhelming.”

As time progressed, teaching got harder. She would become nauseous in class, and still had to pretend that everything was alright. During that time, she got a stool to use in the classroom, because sitting on it and gripping the sides helped her brain process the fact that the room was not really spinning and that it was all in her head. There were times when she had to run out of class to throw up in the bathroom, then come back and continue teaching. “It was just hard. It was exhausting. But I did it. And perhaps I shouldn’t have done it, but I wanted so bad for my kids to not see me as sick.”

It is clear that Ms. Walls was determined to show a brave face despite how much she was struggling. She kept fighting and kept teaching, showing her students the same endurance that she admires in all of her favorite literary characters. Even today, in every class, she tries to engage students, teach them to write for whatever they may need it for, and to help them become better people. She said, “I think that reading literature is about reading the perspectives of others, and in that way we make people better at being human.”

Ms. Walls now teaches 10th grade gifted world literature and AP Literature, but she first fell in love with English in her freshman year of high school when she read the story of Romeo and Juliet. She said, “It was just the most beautiful thing I thought I had ever read and I knew then that I wanted to read Shakespeare forever.”

She also sponsors the school’s literary magazine, MisChief, in hopes to “give recognition to […] so many students who are brilliant in different ways, and who might feel like their gift is overlooked.”

Students see and admire her love for English and her love for her students. Sophomore Abigail Hooper said, “The most important thing that I have learned in Ms. Walls’ class is probably to not just read one story about people or a place. There are multiple perspectives and lots of different people and stories.” Junior Ethan Slepian said, “My favorite part of the class was how it did not feel like I was ever in a classroom, it always felt as though I was in a room with a family because of the way that she cares for each student.” Senior Sam Ellis feels similarly to both Slepian and Hooper; he said, “I just recall the passion in that room with a teacher who cared about the material and students who saw that passion and reacted positively as they engaged with the material in a way that is rarely seen in classrooms.

Despite the battles she has faced, Ms. Walls has succeeded and continued to be a source of inspiration and learning for her students. Ellis still maintains a close relationship with Ms. Walls through his position as one of the editors of MisChief, but he misses being in her class. He said,  “Enjoy it while it lasts. Ms. Walls brings an energy to the classroom every day that you should savor.”

Though Ellis was describing Ms. Walls’ class, she echoes him in her philosophy on life; Walls said, “All you can do is think about and appreciate the moment, because it’s all we have, whether you are fighting cancer or not, and it’s that moment and you have to cling to that and enjoy it.”