Meet Maria Williams, 5th Grade Spanish Immersion teacher at Burnt Mills Elementary School in Silver Spring, MD and Washington Parent’s Teacher Appreciation All-Star! Maria was entered into the Teacher Appreciation All-Stars by her 5th grade student, Clara Miehl, who described her as “creative and kind,” always providing “challenges for students who need them.”
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We had a chance to talk with Williams and learn more about her inspiring teaching journey.
WP: When did you know you wanted to become a teacher?
Maria: I knew I wanted to be a teacher since I was a little girl. I love working with children. When I was in high school I wanted to major in education but ultimately decided on Psychology. I wanted to learn about how the mind works and the impacts it has on behavior. I figured this would help me to better understand the way children behave and how best to work with them. Shortly after graduating from college, I received a memo from Prince George’s County Public Schools about the Resident Teacher program. It felt like fate, so I applied. It was the best decision I made.
WP: How long have you been teaching for?
Maria: I have been teaching for almost 12 years. I have taught various grade levels. I have loved it so much and have never had more fun outside my home than when I’m teaching.
WP: What is your favorite part about being a teacher?
Maria: One of the things I love about being a teacher are the “aha moments” when students make connections during the lesson. Or when they struggled and finally understand a concept. That look of accomplishment in their eyes is everything.
WP: What is the most challenging part of being a teacher?
Maria: For me, the most difficult part of being a teacher is being able to reach all my students. It is difficult to teach something in a way that all my students will understand, so naturally, some students will not follow along. Knowing how to reach the students that are used to being left behind is one of the daily difficulties in a classroom. No two classes are the same, so what worked for one, may not work for another. Sometimes you have to change strategies several times until you find what works for that class, or that one student.
WP: What is one thing your students probably don’t know about you?
Maria: My students probably don’t know just how scared I am of public speaking. At the beginning of each year, I am so scared to meet my new class. As a former ESOL student, I am constantly thinking about what I am going to say before I say it, always afraid of not being clear or not being understood. This feeling actually helps me to teach students in the most clear and effective ways.
WP: What is the most important lesson you hope to pass along to your students?
Maria: The most important lesson I hope to pass along to my students is what my 8th grade English teacher taught me. He used to always say, “take the class, not the teacher!” You are more likely to learn from a teacher you like than from one you don’t. This is the reason why I focus on building great relationships with my students and creating a positive learning environment.
WP: Was there a teacher that had a profound impact on your life?
Maria: Ms. Alpert was my METS teacher, she taught me how to speak English. She was so patient with me and did an amazing job helping me get through my fear of speaking in the classroom. Ms. Alpert helped me become a better teacher, I always wanted to be just like her. When I became a teacher in Montgomery County Public Schools I reached out her and we got together. She had binders with pictures of her former students, she had pictures of me. She’ll never know how much joy that brought me, to see myself in her binder, after 20 years.
WP: What do you say to yourself to get through challenges?
Maria: I’ve had some rough years and some amazing years, teaching is never boring. Through some rough times, I ask myself: “what would I do if I weren’t a teacher?” When I ask myself this question, I never get far, I always come back to why I fell in love with teaching. So, during some difficult times I think about why I love teaching and how much I’d miss it.
It was delightful learning about Maria Williams and her role as a teacher in the community. See the rest of Washington Parent’s Teacher Appreciation All-Stars HERE!
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