The Traveling Teacher, Mr. Williams Profile
By Alexis Jenkins ’11
In shirt and tie like most, except this teacher has a passport to boast. Sitting in a history classroom of bright colors and unique finds from Africa and Asia, teacher Chris Williams tells me he has now visited a total of seventy-four countries and has participated in four years of volunteer teaching.
Mr. Williams, of the social studies department, is back from his teaching mission in Guyana, country seventy four, and he celebrates teaching year thirty with sophomores, seniors, and the McNamara community.
He took a break from McNamara to work with the Peace Core because he needed a challenge. Prior to his peace core work, he taught in Sudan during the later part of the 1970’s. One of his most recent volunteer efforts took place in the country of Guyana in South America where he has spent the last two years. He taught primary school which is most equivalent to our elementary school system. He worked with second through sixth grade students to help develop reading, writing, and phonics skills. Lucky for him, Guyana is an English speaking country seeing that English is the only language Mr. Williams speaks.
Teaching the same curriculum year after year had lost its fire. Mr. Williams was stretching his students, but for him it was repetition and more meaningfully he said, “Volunteer work appealed to me very much.” Mr. Williams spoke with Principal Marco Clark, School President Heather Gossart and the administration about taking a leave of absence to pursue the opportunity abroad. The result was two years in Guyana. He went, taught and has come back revived. It proved to be a good experience. He said, “The children are sweethearts,” but admits it’s a lot harder than teaching high school, it requires more patience.
Now, back at McNamara he celebrates his 30th year of teaching. He currently teaches sophomore Western Civilization and senior Global Studies. Mr. Williams hasn’t taught sophomores in a while and the high school gap is evident. He enjoys teaching both classes, but there is a difference. He said, “Seniors are nine months away from college and sophomores are three months away from freshmen year.” His sophomores are still developing writing skills, while his seniors are busy writing applications. To teach both classes he has to apply different motivations because they are at different stages and their outlooks vary.
Looking around the same room Mr. Williams’ sophomores and seniors sit in, my eyes catch interest in the colorful walls once again. In room 215, many alluring ornaments come down from the ceiling to greet you accompanied by the artifacts on the walls. One of the items hanging from the ceiling is a gift of colorful ornamental balls that Mr. Williams received on a home-stay in Japan. Gift-giving holds great importance in Japan. It is disrespectful to visit someone without coming with a gift. In Japanese, nebura is the word meaning empty handed. Of course, Mr. Williams came with gift in hand and warmly received one back. Returning to his classroom there are many other decorations from different journeys. The wall above the whiteboards bears a sign with chocolate silhouettes advertising Ashanti hair salon in Ghana, West Africa. The room just shows the mix of culture that he has experienced from all around the globe. Other items found in the room include gifts from students and teachers who have traveled abroad. Of these gifts, one is a highly decorated wooden box from Iran, it was a gift from Chemistry teacher Saiedeh Khalili.
Mr. Williams is enjoying teaching, but he may increase his count of seventy-four countries. I asked where he would like to travel next, and three countries came to mind. The first being Madagascar off the coast of Africa because of its unique cultural mix between Africa and Indonesia. “Madagascar has beautiful landscape,” Mr. Williams said, “and a lot of wildlife.” The second country is Papua New Guinea of the South West Pacific Islands because of its rich isolated culture. Papua New Guinea is said to have many undiscovered species of plants and animals. Maybe Mr. Williams can discover something new. Lastly, Easter Island in the Southeastern side of the Pacific Ocean because of its world renown Moai, the nine hundred stone statues that decorate the island.