Getting to know: Glen Lake teacher Maria Williams
Glen Lake Elementary School fifth- grade teacher Maria Williams has been teaching her entire life. Only recently did she make it her career.
Williams, 25, a Chaska resident, previously worked in the Hopkins School District as a student teacher, and is back in the district after a year away. Aside from teaching, Williams enjoys painting, refinishing furniture, reading and spending time with her family.
On Nov. 29, she took the time to speak with the Sun-Sailor about her teaching career and being back in the Hopkins School District.
Question: When and where did you first begin teaching?
Answer: I first started teaching when I was about five years old with my pet dog, bird and little brother as my students. I would set up a classroom in our house and teach them various “skills.” That job lasted only a few weeks due to “noncompliance” from a few of the students. Growing up, my mom ran an in-home daycare, so I was surrounded by kids all the time. I loved to work with the kids practicing writing, adding and discovering new things. When I got older, I started tutoring elementary age students and coaching sports.
My first actual teaching job was teaching 4th grade at Halverson Elementary in Albert Lea. I learned so much from that first year of teaching. As a first-year teacher, you are not really sure what to expect. I worked with wonderful staff that provided such a welcoming community for both the parents and students.
Q: Were you nervous, anxious or excited to begin school this fall? Basically, tell me what you were thinking before your first day.
A: To be honest, I was feeling very excited and anxious to get the year started. I had student taught at this school two years ago in third grade with Julie Burke. It was comforting to know that I was going to be teaching in a school where there were already familiar faces. After looking at my class list, I noticed that I was going to have a handful of students from that class. I was so excited that I was going to be able to work with these students again.
I was also excited and anxious to start the school year because it was also going to be my first time co-teaching a class with someone. Liz [Ogren] and I met before the school year began and started the process of getting to know each other and setting up our classrooms. I knew that this year was going to be a great opportunity to collaborate and learn a lot from a creative, intuitive teacher.
Q: How have the first three months at Glen Lake gone?
A: The first three months at Glen Lake have been a great learning experience. The staff and families at Glen Lake are very welcoming and supportive. When you are in the school, you really get the feeling that they are a caring, connective community. It has been a learning opportunity to work with these staff members that each has their own individual strength to contribute to the team.
I have truly enjoyed getting to know the students and families at Glen Lake these first couple months of the school year. Each student is so unique and contributes something special to our classroom in their own way. I have really enjoyed getting to know their strengths and how they learn as an individual.
Q: Talk about one unusual or unexpected experience you were not prepared for and how did you handle it?
A: One aspect of the classroom that I am learning about this year is how important the social curriculum is. I’ve learned that the social curriculum is just as important as the academic curriculum for many different reasons: it helps build a positive environment, it builds trust among their peers and it creates a supportive classroom community. If the students feel that they are respected and valued in their classroom they are able to spread their wings and grow as an individual. They start to take care of their classroom and see it as their own, which is my goal. I want the students to feel like it is their classroom, not just the teacher’s. Glen Lake has a great support team that collaborates with teachers on a weekly basis to work with classes to build their classroom community.
Q: What are you looking forward to for the rest of the school year?
A: I am looking forward to growing as an educator, along with my students. Everyday I learn something new from them. Everyday I am amazed at how intuitive and creative the students are. I watch students noticing their peer struggling with something and help their classmate without anyone asking them to. As an educator, I feel it is so important not just to think about what your students can learn from you, but what you can learn from your students. Each day is an opportunity to learn about how they interact, how they learn, how they discover, and how they think outside of the box. It’s incredible what you can learn from your students.
Q: Like you said, you have some of the same students as you did two years ago. Talk about that experience.
A: Yes, I student taught at Glen Lake two years ago in 3rd grade with Julie Burke. I have 10 students in my class that I had student taught two years ago. It is such a great experience to work with these students again and see how they have grown physically, socially, and academically over the past year. Although it has only been a year, it is amazing how they have progressed in that short amount of time. It was also nice work with the families again and to have a previous relationship build with them.