When Allie Walker graduated from Simpson College in 2012 with degrees in history and philosophy, she knew she wanted to spend some time traveling.
Fortunately, her boyfriend Rawley Butler ‘13, an environmental studies and history major and political science minor, had the same desire.
“Travel is important to both of us,” Walker said. “We love meeting new people, having new experiences, and learning about different cultures.”
Their love of traveling would ultimately take them on a journey that would shape their futures in a way they probably didn’t imagine when their journey began.
Both Walker and Butler are from small towns in Iowa and California respectively. After graduation they saved for a year and got certified in TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) and TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). They both spoke some Spanish and decided their first experience would be in Peru.
“We chose Peru because we were both offered teaching positions in Lima,” Walker said.
They both taught for two months in Lima and loved surfing, eating fresh seafood and working with their students.
“It was fun but we both realized the city is not where we wanted to be,” Butler said.
“We applied and were given positions at an English school in a small town called Urubamba in the Andes Mountains,” Walker said.
Their students ranged in age from small children to adults and the people of Urubamba were very kind and generous to the couple.
“Something we loved about living in Urubamba was the strong sense of community and tradition,” Walker said. “We loved talking with our students about their parades, festivals and services.”
One day they were surprised to find they couldn’t leave town because a parade, which lasted the entire day, blocked the main road!
This experience brought them to the realization that their passion for travel was surpassed by their love of the classroom. So they made the decision to return to the States and go back to school for licensure.
“It wasn’t until I’d taught for a few weeks in Peru that I realized I was going home excited from work,” Walker said. “My students would come in and tell me about something they noticed or heard outside of the classroom and their excitement and understanding made me understand what had been missing.”
Both enrolled in Simpson’s Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program but kept working as special education associates and substitute teachers while they completed the program.
“Simpson was willing to work with our schedule,” Walker said. “This program is definitely not for the faint of heart. It takes a commitment to go to classes every week on top of working.”
She continued to say how the Simpson professors supported them and helped them through.
“They were aware of the struggles we were going through and made us feel that we weren’t alone. Simpson is a small school, so there is a personal element to every interaction we’ve had at the school. We never felt like a number when we were at Simpson.”
The schedule was also a bonus.
“Because of the fast (two year), manageable course-load, we were able to visit and teach in several schools over the course of our program,” Butler said. “Allie added an English endorsement to her licensure which meant that she had double to triple the course-load every semester. But Simpson was willing to work with her to make this a possibility.”
Now, with their Master’s degrees in hand, Walker and Butler are once again combining their adventurous spirit with their love of teaching. They both have accepted positions in El Salvador.
Walker will be teaching 8th grade English Language Arts and Honors English Language Arts. Butler will be teaching 8th grade World History.
“Apart from teaching and learning more about El Salvador, we will continue to travel as much as possible,” Walker said.
“Eventually we plan to settle in the United States but for the near future, we will continue to live and teach internationally. We are open to whatever our future brings!”
To others who may be thinking about completing the MAT program, both say you need to know if it’s the right fit for you.
“I would try to get some experience in the field before you enter the program just to make sure it’s something you are definitely interested in,” Walker said.
“Don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions up front because this is your future and don’t let anyone take you for granted. Be willing to struggle, be willing to stay up late, and understand that you won’t be alone.”
These two have found their true passion, both in work and in life.
They were recently married adding another pair of “Simpson Sweethearts” to the list of couples who found their partners at Simpson.
When asked if there were any people at Simpson who influenced their lives, the list grows long.
“The history and philosophy department were a huge part of my undergraduate career, as was the Iowa History Center at Simpson,” Walker said. “The passion that I have for teaching is largely due to the experiences I had in those classrooms.”
The history department also impacted Butler’s life. “Daryl Sasser, Judy Walden, Nick Proctor, and Marcy Hahn have been influential in my time at Simpson. Allie and I met in Dr. Walden’s Chinese History class…so I guess that was a big influence!”
So the teaching and traveling continue for this couple. Walker sums up well their commitment to their students.
“Teaching is a hard job. It’s tiring, there is a lot of paperwork, and you don’t always feel appreciated. But those moments when students get excited, geek out, and figure out something they’d struggled with make it a profession unlike any other. Now that I teach, I can’t imagine myself doing anything else.”