By 9 years old, Nadia Williams was on a path toward becoming an educator.
That was the year she began creating lesson plans and teaching lessons to her younger brother and cousin, both then 3 years old, during summer months. Playing school, she taught them from math and reading books her mother purchased at a store for teachers and from some of her own books.
“Nadia always liked to teach,” her mother, Kimberly Williams, says now. “I noticed with her teaching my son and my nephew that she had a knack for teaching.”
Now, Nadia Williams, a senior at Lake Dallas High School, has the accolades to prove it. Last month, she earned a first-place award at the Future Educators Association National Conference in Minneapolis and was named among the top 10 competitors in the Exploring Education Administration Careers contest.
A goal fulfilled
Nadia’s winning journey started with an aspiration to compete at the national level.
“She had the vision for it,” said Tonya Monden, the adviser for the Lake Dallas High chapter of the Texas Association of Future Educators.
Monden said she learned about Nadia’s desire to compete last year, when the teen was elected president of the state association.
Becoming a national champion, Nadia said, simply boiled down to being a hard worker.
She traveled to Minneapolis last month for the national conference, and on April 11 interviewed for a mock classroom teacher assistant job before a panel of judges.
Prior to the on-site interview, she had submitted an online job application, presented a reference letter, her resume detailing her relevant work, volunteer and education experience and a cover letter explaining what made her the best candidate for the position. For her efforts, she won first place in the job application contest
In another contest on exploring an administrative career, she shadowed Cory Hailey, associate principal at Lake Dallas High, for eight hours. The contest required that she submit various materials, including an essay, and present a PowerPoint presentation to a judges panel on Hailey, his job, his impact on students and herself, and how what he does will help her further her career choice.
The word announcing Nadia as a national champion was met with cheers from the 160 students and teachers from Texas who attended the conference, Monden said.
“I think that national championship was her exclamation point on a great year,” Monden said. “It took a lot of work and she fought through it.”
Nadia — who was hundreds of miles away on her way to her prom at the time of the announcement — got the news via text messages, along with pictures of her certificates and medal.
She couldn’t believe it and thought, “Really?”
“Then it sunk in, ‘Wow, I’m the national champion.’ It’s pretty cool,” Nadia said. “It’s a good feeling.”
Nadia has always wanted to teach and help others, her father, Kenneth Williams, said.
“Even when she was a young child, she would always play like that,” he said. “She would line her dolls up and teach them.”
“From day one, she was always bossy,” Kimberly Williams said with a laugh.
She and her husband would read books to their daughter when she was young, and Nadia would read back to them.
“She was always a person that was so mature before her time … had an old soul,” Kimberly Williams said.
And children love Nadia, her mother said. Over the years, Nadia has been involved with the youth and children’s programs at her church, Westside Baptist Church in Lewisville, and she plans to spend the summer working as a camp counselor.
“As young as she is, she’s very nurturing, and kids just flock to her, so that lets me know … this is her calling,” Kimberly Williams said. “I’m just so proud of her. I couldn’t have asked for a better daughter. I just thank God.”
Nadia is a second-year intern in the Ready, Set, Teach! program at Shady Shores Elementary School.
Two to three days a week, she spends three hours with a second-grade class at Shady Shores Elementary, and grades papers, helps in teaching lessons, reads to students, provides one-on-one tutoring, files papers and works on school bulletin boards. She worked with third-grade students her first year; currently, she said, she’s helping second-graders learn to write complete sentences and subtract from 100.
She’s fascinated by helping people learn, she said.
“I like the feeling of when they actually understand what I’m teaching,” Nadia said. “I feel like I’m doing something right — they’re learning.”
Monden describes Nadia as “a natural.”
“The future of education is in good hands with students like Nadia,” she said.
Nadia will graduate from high school May 31 and plans to study elementary education at Jackson State University in Mississippi.
She said she aspires to become a school superintendent one day. She’s on a path to becoming the first educator in her family.
“I want to be a superintendent because I want to help students that have trouble learning [be] better learners and progress in their learning abilities,” Nadia said.
Winning a national championship is just the beginning.
“Knowing that I did work that hard … it just made me excited, and I can’t wait to see what else I do,” she said.
BRITNEY TABOR can be reached at 940-566-6876 and via Twitter at @BritneyTabor.