Our final interview for teacher appreciation week is with Alex Williams. Alex works in Milwaukee at the Barack Obama School of Career and Technical Education. He is an AmeriCorps Member for City Year, a program that hires tutors and mentors for students of Milwaukee Public Schools. These tutors create relationships with the students and provide extra resources to help them with their educational career.
Alex went to Brown Deer High School in Milwaukee and then continued on to Ball State University in Indiana for his first year, where he was majoring in Telecommunications. He realized quickly that wasn’t his passion. He then transferred to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee where he started narrowing down what he wanted to do. He decided to major in History but has decided to go back to get his teaching certification upon realizing that is his passion.
While he was in an education class, a City Year recruiter came in and explained what they were all about. He had done some tutoring in the past and thought this would be an excellent opportunity to support local students. He loved that City Year offered the chance to be in a school, all day, working with students and teachers. City Year played a prominent role in cementing his desire to teach and be involved with educational policy. He is extremely passionate about educational laws and making sure that every student has an equal opportunity to receive a substantial education.
“If you’re passionate about something, you are going to put more energy into it,” Williams said.
Alex enjoys designing lesson plans for his 7th- and 8th-grade students that challenge them to think about their life.
“I love designing lesson plans that are culturally relevant and peak my student’s interests,” said Williams.
Williams reaches out to his students to learn about their interests so that he can develop lessons that keep the students engaged. He believes this makes tutoring go smoothly, and loves to see where their minds go when they’re asking questions and remaining engaged.
“I love the ‘ah ha’ moments. Or when they’re really proud to show you the improvements they’ve made.”
The school just went through their testing, and he was so thrilled about the progress his students made but even prouder to see how enthusiastic they were when they reached their goals.
At the beginning of the year, Williams encountered his biggest challenge: building a rapport with his students. It was difficult for him at first because the students didn’t know him and he didn’t know the students. He had to dive in and start understanding his students and how they learned.
“We were all feeling each other out, and I was trying to learn everyone’s learning styles,” Williams said, recalling the start of the year. “I was trying to figure out who these students couldn’t work with, or who might be more of a challenge to work with.”
Although he loves designing lessons plans, it was a challenge at the beginning because he had to create lesson plans that benefit several different students at one time.
“It was hard because they all have very different personalities, which can be difficult, especially with the bigger personalities with lots of energy. But even that got easier as we became more comfortable with each other.”
When asked about a teacher or professor who inspired him, his former History teacher and football coach immediately came to mind. He was a significant influence on Alex and part of the reason he wanted to go into teaching. He loved that he always checked on his students.
“It made me realize that teachers weren’t just people handing out grades but they can be personable mentors. They are people too!”
Williams believes his greatest success in tutoring has been how students have normalized achievement. He loves that he plays a part in instilling a higher work ethic into their development.
“I have students ask for additional work and assignments and even for books to read over the summer. Because of the relationships I have developed, they trust me, and my tutoring is so much more effective”.
Educators Credit Union encourages you to reach out to your teachers and thank them for all that they do. If you are looking for a creative way to show your teachers appreciation, head over to the Educators’ Pinterest page and check out the teacher appreciation board.