Agile Mind Educator Spotlight: Debra Williams from Bogalusa, LA

We are honored to share our latest Educator Spotlight with you, Debra Williams! Debra has taught 5th grade through college across multiple disciplines, and to diverse students, over her 34 year tenure in education. Her love of education started with her morning breakfasts as a child, as she listened to her parents, both educators, talk shop at the table. Early on, Debra knew her purpose would be to empower others to be their best.

Debra is starting her third year with Agile Mind’s Intensified Algebra I program, and we are excited to learn from her. Here is what she had to say:

What inspires you? What are you passionate about?

I feel refreshed every year as I meet new students! Looking into the eyes of my students, and even my colleagues I work with every day, there is a sense of excitement for the year ahead. 

I know teachers make a difference.  It may not be a huge difference for the world, but it’s a huge difference for that kid, and that’s what I try to remember every day when they walk in the door. 

The leaders at my school believe in us and push us to be better. They inspire me to find better ways to deliver instruction.

“Teaching makes me feel alive, and so I want to keep pushing to be more effective.“

How does Agile Mind support your work?

I saw the value of Social Emotional Learning before I began with Agile Mind, thinking about students’ multiple intelligences and recognizing who was gifted where, so that I could tap into it. Intensified Algebra Incorporates a lot of those ideas – it made me an expert in what I always knew was the essence of education.

I hate it when I hear, “students don’t want to learn”. That’s not true – learning is power, and validates students’ existence. It’s just that they don’t know how to learn. As teachers, it’s our job as the leaders and authority in the classroom, to make sure they learn, and Agile Mind provides tools to help take us there.

Agile Mind is kind of like my “Wal-Mart”. Everything I need is there, you know, and sometimes I find new items that I didn’t discover the previous year. I feel empowered to open up the Advice for Instruction and to look at the lessons and see the motion of what is going to happen, and take the lead in it.

“ Agile Mind isn’t structured in a way that I feel confined, but structured in a way that makes me feel safe to put my own flavor in it.”

What advice would you give to other Agile Mind educators?

I work to empower my students. Here are some of the strategies I use to make sure students see a question and don’t feel depleted, but feel like they know what to do – that they have a strategy:

  • Look at the group of lessons that you are planning to teach for that week, and I review the Goals & Objectives and each question in the Student Activity Book to highlight action words. I anticipate struggles my students might have, and then develop models for presenting concepts and skills in ways that build students’ confidence that they can do the task!
  • Pull in other little resources to get my students hyped for the lesson. Like, I might pull in a quick YouTube video to bring a situation to life, have students act out a scenario, or bring in another example.
  • Use the embedded metacognitive tools and problem-solving routines to set students up for success.

I see myself back in my first year. I was thinking about Agile Mind and how to unwrap it, how to develop it in a way that students can learn from it. I recommend that new Agile Mind teachers take on the mindset that Agile Mind has done the research, and it has been proven effective over the years. You have to trust the process, even if you don’t quite see where you fit or how to make it happen at first. Don’t push it to the side and think “I’ll get to it later”, but unwrap it right away and you’ll become a more effective agent of the available tools and resources.

Debra, we thank you so much for the work you are doing with students, and for taking the time to share your thoughts with other Agile Mind educators. Your comments made us reflect on the ways education makes us feel alive, and how we can use that energy to continue to learn and grow. Thank you!

With gratitude,

Abby & the Professional Services Team