Commencement 2023

Commencement Speaker: Candace Felix Walker, MA + Teaching Credential

Walker finds a way to do it all — and with mindfulness

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Commencement address co-presented with Nicole Straley (09:53)

BSE Commencement speaker Candace Walker — a graduate of the Berkeley Teacher Education Program — exudes boundless energy and positivity, qualities that likely propelled her to work full time, finish two degrees, and raise two children through the pandemic. 

Walker, who grew up in the Bay Area, had taken a break in her undergraduate studies and was running multiple afterschool programs in Hayward schools and loving it. When Covid hit, she said it was “a great pivoting point.” She tapped into a program called PACE that supported returning students in finishing their degrees, completing her major in human development at Cal State University, East Bay online. 

“I felt like going back to school sustained me through the pandemic,” Walker said. “I had a  focus and a goal and school helped me to venture outward. It provided me an outlet to discuss and meet with my peers virtually in a way that engaged my mind and fed my creativity.” 

Before finishing her undergraduate degree, Walker applied on a whim to the BSE’s Berkeley Teacher Education Program (BTEP) in January 2022. A few weeks later, she found out she was pregnant with her second baby. Then she found out she was accepted into BTEP. 

“I have been floored at how supportive BTEP has been in supporting me as a pregnant scholar and enabling me to participate fully in this program and get my full education worth of learning,” she said. “I am thankful to everyone — key players were Manny, my supervisor Elisa, and nives — who helped guide and support me when I was struggling. It’s been a great experience.” 

Walker, who only applied to BTEP for her graduate studies, was drawn to the program’s identity statement, which she said aligned with her own experience. She chose Berkeley because she wanted to be immersed in an environment that honored this life experience and says the program has fully lived up to this ideal for her. 

“You can’t make change in the world if you aren’t willing to make change in yourself,” she said. 

It hasn’t been easy. She had to be ultra-organized and disciplined to literally do it all — parent her newborn baby, Jean, and 4-year-old Finn, study, and work. She also relied on her therapy and a mindfulness practice she developed with her after school students. 

In the fall, Walker will start as a kindergarten teacher in the Castro Valley Unified School District just as her son starts as a kindergartner in nearby Hayward. 

“I would hope that anyone who sees my story knows that it’s never too late to go back to school and if you work hard, you can get it,” Walker said, checking her watch to make sure she had time to finish some work and pick up the kids. “The opportunity is there.”