Student Essay Contest

Dr. Lois Williams: A One of a Kind Dynamo

2002 AWM Essay Contest: 1st Place in Grades 6-8 Category

By Ross Caton

Was I intimidated? Yes, when I first enrolled in Dr. Williams’s compacted math class as a 6th grader, I questioned whether I could meet her high expectations. This dynamic, redheaded woman introduced her class by explaining that students who did not maintain a B- average would be transferred to a lower level math class. She also made it clear that in her class there was no credit for an organized notebook! I shed tears worrying about the possible humiliation of being asked to transfer to another math course. At the same time I spent hours doing extra credit projects to ensure that would not happen. But, let me tell you more about Dr. Williams.
Lois Williams was raised by her father, an Italian-American carpenter, and her mother, a German-American, stay-at-home mom. Both were high school educated, but neither was college educated.
Dr. Williams did not set out to pursue a career in the mathematical sciences. She always knew, however, that she wanted to be a teacher. Ms. Williams came a long way to achieve this dream. She started by going to Plattsburgh State University where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education and Communications. Next, she enrolled at the University of Virginia where she received a Masters of Education in Curriculum, an Education Specialist degree in Math Education and, ultimately, a Doctorate of Education in Curriculum and Instruction.
Dr. Williams’s first teaching job was at an elementary school, where she taught language arts, math, science, and social studies. She found that she did not like being a language arts teacher because she did not enjoy teaching reading and writing. Then she was offered a Fullbright Teaching Fellowship to Scotland. Soon after she returned, she saw openings for math or social studies teachers at Jack Jouett Middle School. She was chosen for the math opening. Today Dr. Williams teaches a number of different math courses, including 6th grade compacted math, 7th grade honors, standard, and practical math, and 7th and 8th grade algebra. Concurrently, she contributes to the mathematical sciences by teaching adults at Mary Baldwin College and working as a staff development consultant for mathematics teachers across the country.
Dr. Williams describes her job as one in which she helps people learn to understand and enjoy mathematics at the middle school, college, and teacher level. Dr. Williams offers this advice to students who wish to pursue a career in the mathematical sciences: “Take lots of math classes and try to take them from people who enjoy what they do.”
Let me hasten to add that Dr. Williams also has a full life outside of school. She is married to a landscaper and has a number of cats. Other than mathematics, some of her hobbies and interests include quilting, gardening, archiving pictures, and reading.
Now, for the rest of the story, I am presently a 7th grade student in Dr. Williams’s Honors Advanced Algebra I class. Yes, I had a wonderful experience in compacted math thanks to Dr. Williams, and she has become one of my favorite teachers. Her passion for mathematics is contagious, and her highly focused approach is extremely effective. In addition to having all the qualities of a master teacher, Dr. Williams is also funny and energetic. As a teacher of both adults and children, she is making a significant commitment in the field of mathematical sciences. I wish every student were as lucky as I am to have a dynamo like Dr. Williams as his math teacher.
About the author: This biographical sketch of Dr. Williams is written from a student perspective. I am that student, and my name is Ross Caton. I was born and raised in Albemarle County, Virginia, where I attend Jack Jouett Middle School. I am currently in the seventh grade and enrolled in Dr. Williams’s Honors Advanced Algebra I class. I am relatively gifted when it comes to mathematics, and problem solving comes fairly easy to me. Dr. Williams has taught me how to understand and enjoy mathematical problems, such that finding solutions is both challenging and rewarding. Her teaching has influenced me to consider a career in the mathematical sciences.