Position: Chemistry & Forensic Science Teacher
School: Jane Long Futures Academy
School District: Houston Independent School District
City, State: Houston, Texas
About the Nominee: Aletha Williams has been a teacher for over 11 years. During this time, she has always made sure that all of her students are taken care of. She believes that each student is a unique individual, and it is important for her to be aware of and sensitive to their individual needs. She believes a flexible manner of instruction is necessary to cater to the individual requirements of each student. Ms. Williams believes all students have great potential, and her role as an instructor is to give students the tools to cultivate that potential. For her, teaching provides an opportunity for continual learning and growth on the part of both the student and the instructor. She not only wants her students to learn the content of the courses she teaches, but to develop critical thinking skills, acquire life-long learning skills and prepare to function effectively outside of the classroom environment. As an instructor, she strives to perpetuate knowledge and inspires her students to learn by sharing her passion for learning with them. In showing students how to become responsible for themselves and their learning, she is giving them the tools to believe in themselves and to become successful in life.
When walking into Ms. Williams' classroom at Jane Long Futures Academy, students find a relaxed environment that accurately reflects science and learning. She strives to have a classroom where the students are comfortable communicating with her and with each other. Her classroom is a collaborative environment, with the desks grouped in a fashion that fosters this environment. She believes that learner-oriented teaching promotes learning that has a purpose and is durable. Her goal is for students to leave her classroom with real-world skills beyond those simply needed in a chemistry classroom.
Ms. Williams also strives for her students to be working scientists. As an instructor, it is her responsibility to understand who her students are, what their backgrounds are and where they come from. From this, she needs to glean what kinds of knowledge and experience they bring to the class and their goals for the class. This way, she can tailor a curriculum that fits their needs, yet leaves flexibility to accommodate topics that emerge from group inquiry. However, this classroom setting has to be safe so students feel empowered to explore the boundaries of their developing skills.
As a teacher, Ms. Williams assesses where her students are on the class’ learning goals and provides the scaffolding they need to build connections between what they already know and the new understandings they seek to create. She believes that teachers who demonstrate curiosity and passion about a subject area motivate students to learn. Her philosophy of teaching is to create an environment that allows for supervised exploration. She believes that the most significant learning occurs in situations that are both meaningful and realistic.