Staff Spotlight: Elizabeth Walters

Staff Spotlight: Elizabeth Walters

Anyone who has walked the halls of the upper campus and stopped to pause at one of the art installations has seen the results of having Elizabeth Walters on our staff. Ironically, Elizabeth didn’t always know she wanted to be an artist.  When she was in middle and high school, she was also very good at math. As a high school senior, Elizabeth won both the best math student and best art student. Elizabeth attended Wake Forest University, and at the start of that journey, she did not know what she wanted to do with her life, or even what she wanted to major in. She took many high-level math courses and tutored math while in college, but decided to major in art, because she enjoyed it more. Elizabeth is thankful for her dad who told her to choose what she like best, because “When you get a job, it’s important to like what you do because you spend a lot of time working.”

Prior to joining the staff at GRACE, Elizabeth worked for eight years as a commercial carpet designer. She created patterns of carpet tile for the open line collections, large corporations, and the Canadian market. Even though most designs were very plain in neutral colors, she can recognize the designs that she created. She admits that she always looks down at the carpet when she enters a room. In the Raleigh area, she has seen her designs at the NC Museum of Art in the special collection gallery of the old building, the elevators at NRCA, a building downtown, the Eva Perry Library, and at St. David’s. Elizabeth shares that it’s fun to recognize her work.

It was never Elizabeth’s plan to teach middle and high school art, but she recounts that while it wasn’t her plan, it certainly was God’s plan. She remembers having a conversation with a “stranger” at the post office in Cary and sharing that she was an artist and had experience teaching design classes at all levels from preschool to college and professionals. This stranger was GRACE’s Academic Dean, Julia Taylor. At that time GRACE was in need of an art teacher, Elizabeth interviewed for and received a job offer, and then turned it down. During the following year, she “randomly” ran into then Head of School Don Payne frequently and in the most unexpected places. These frequent “chance” meetings led Elizabeth to pray about coming to GRACE. As it turned out, the teacher who had been hired the year before was leaving to take care of her newborn baby and when Elizabeth called, the position was open. Elizabeth felt certain that God orchestrated all the “coincidences” and that it was His plan for her to join our staff which she did in the winter of 2010.

During her eight years at GRACE, Elizabeth has helped her students participate in many local art competitions. Her favorite was from the fall of 2010 when the GRACE entry, Hamina Biscuit won the “Best Overall Creation” award in the Farm Animal Frenzy competition at the North Carolina State Fair. Hamina Biscuit and her piglets were created from recycled food and beverage containers, boxes, advertisements, and wrappers.  Hamina’s body was a recycled pickle barrel and her head was a recycled 5 gallon water jug. Her legs were recycled table legs covered with food boxes and wrappers. The piglets were created from recycled milk jugs. This environmentally friendly herd won $1,500 for the GRACE art department.

Elizabeth grew up in Birmingham, Alabama where her family has lived for many generations. Her great-great grandparent’s home is now a restaurant on the Southside. She has three older brothers and is the youngest and only girl in the family. As for the Alabama and Auburn rivalry, her family is divided. As a group, they aren’t ardent football fans, so they don’t argue about it. When asked to recall a memory from her own school days, Elizabeth shared a high school trip to France in spite of not speaking French well. Thankfully, her roommate spoke fluent French, so she helped Elizabeth get around. Elizabeth was impressed with the expansive gardens of Monet at Giverny, the magnificent stained glass in Chartres Cathedral, and the opulence of Versailles.

Elizabeth has a son with Cystic Fibrosis and she works with the planning committee for the Joey O Bocce Tournament, a local fundraising event that raises money for awareness, research, and medical expenses of those impacted by this disease. Cystic Fibrosis is a progressive genetic disease that affects the lungs and the ability to breathe. Every year, teams compete in a Bocce Tournament at Cardinal Gibbons. Last year, the event raised over $25,000. This year, the event will be on April 29, 2018.

Elizabeth shared that her favorite Bible verse is Psalm 19:14, “Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.”  Elizabeth shares that this verse is a reminder that the words that come out of her mouth and the thoughts that she has need to be pleasing to God. Elizabeth strives to be mindful of what she says and thinks, especially in this day and age where what we say and do can be spread so quickly on social media. The most important words, she thinks, are those that praise God.

When asked to share an important life lesson, Elizabeth commented, “Perseverance and grit are the best indicators of success. I used to feel inferior when compared to better artists or more intelligent people. But, throughout my 45 years, I’ve seen many brilliant people fail and not recover. Yet, the people that persevere and work through difficulties, those with grit, ultimately push through and succeed. Natural abilities and intelligence aren’t as importance as diligence.”