He's amiable and animated, and students at Towson High School say he understands the way their teen-age minds tick.
So they can't understand why their principal, Gwendolyn R. Grant, has decided to replace music teacher Jim Walker with an outsider, someone students say won't be able to match his enthusiasm or musical expertise.
"Ms. Grant is quick to say that Mr. Walker doesn't have the right leadership skills, but she has never seen him in class. ... She's never seen the way he motivates students," said Sarah Kendall, 18, a 12th-grader who is a member of Towson's vocal ensemble.
Recently, a group of Walker supporters led by 11th-grader Lucy Mitzner, 16, started a petition drive and collected more than 400 signatures representing about a third of Towson's student body.
Mitzner and her friends sent letters home to parents asking them to call Jean E. Satterfield, acting central area superintendent, to express support for Walker. The 11th-grader plans to address the Board of Education on Tuesday.
Grant, who spoke about the issue at a recent PTA meeting, is quick to point out that she helped bring Walker to the school six years ago. "He's a good teacher," she said.
However, when it was time to hire a new music department chairman, Walker, who had interviewed for the position, was not chosen.
And because Walker and the new department head are vocal music teachers - the school is allowed only one - Walker's transfer became necessary. His new assignment has not been made.
"I pick wonderful people for the students in this building," said Grant. "I was looking for a leader, and I selected the best candidate. ...
"The kids don't get to select their teachers. The principal has that responsibility, and I am fulfilling that responsibility."
Students say they can't understand why Grant would replace Walker, a 1979 Towson graduate who won the "School Spirit Award" last year and was the subject of feature article in last year's edition of the school's literary magazine, colophon.
He teaches a full schedule of classes, including choir and music technology, in which students create pieces on electronic keyboards.
Walker also coaches the junior varsity lacrosse team. His father taught physical education at Towson for four decades.
Walker, who lives a few blocks from the campus with his wife and four children, says he doesn't want to leave the school.
"When they told me that I wasn't going to be back at Towson, I was really hurt and shocked," said Walker, 39.