Kionna Walker

The quintessential “trouble” student is Kionna Walker’s favorite student. “The students that teachers warn me about are usually the most creative, the best at their work and the most detail oriented,” she said. She believes these students can do well – they just need something to spark their interest.

Walker does this through her work with Next Great Architects, the teaching studio she founded which develops young people in architecture through design, history and appreciation. Her mission is to introduce young people to architecture and nurture their development in the craft and creativity.

Walker helps children learn to love subjects they might traditionally turn away from, like science, math and engineering. By using unique programming that makes these subjects relatable to children, those “trouble” students find a passion for topics they never thought they could understand.

“It’s about helping a child realize they can do something and building their confidence. Seeing all the enthusiasm and hearing them say ‘I can do it’ is amazing to see,” Walker shared. Her ability to connect with children and break down typically difficult subjects into simple, fun activities is unparalleled. From house building competitions to learning the importance of sustainability, her passion for architecture and teaching shines through in every lesson.

Besides helping students learn to love STEM topics, she’s introducing them to careers: Architect, urban planner, interior designer, welder and electrician to name a few. “When they see what we are talking about and creating in the classroom outside the classroom, it translates into real life.”

Walker hopes she is inspiring the next generation of designers, regardless if it’s architecture they choose as their design aesthetic. “I tell my kids we are all designers; I don’t want them to look at what I do and reproduce that, I want them to know their creativity is right. I’m helping them understand collaboration and develop as people,” she said.

Next Great Architects students leave with not only a love of design, but a sense of community. “They learn to understand the importance of your neighborhood and how it all connects together; they have to think about what will make the most sense and really support the greater good."

Thanks to Walker, Central Indiana will be supplying the world with not only great architects, but community-driven professionals who know that the “smallest decisions we make can impact the community and even the world.”