Katelyn Williams Is Paying It Forward at North Lake Elementary.

by | Mar 2023

EVERY STUDENT deserves a healthy learning environment with a teacher who goes above and beyond to ensure their most pivotal school years are as enriching, memorable, and productive as possible. 

Katelyn Williams is one of many outstanding North Lake Elementary teachers who makes her students’ growth in elementary school a top priority. 

Born and raised here in Franklin County, Williams has lived in Winchester, Estill Springs, and Huntland, and now she’s back in Winchester, where she teaches third grade at North Lake Elementary. 

Williams is proud to pay it forward and teach students in the same county she grew up in. Williams said the Franklin County School System impacted her life, as she always had many great educators throughout her academic career. 

Photographed by Ashleigh Newnes.

She said, “I can still tell you the names of all of my elementary teachers. “I can tell you memories from each grade. Middle school, same thing. I really loved my teachers and was involved in many different things.” 

She said the Franklin County School System impacted her by leading her to pursue a career in education. 

Williams recalled a specific moment when she realized she wanted to be a teacher — in her high school agricultural education class. She said she had a wonderful agriculture education teacher during her freshman and sophomore years at Franklin County High School, who now teaches at Huntland High School. 

“He was just so dedicated to the FFA program. He was very dedicated to teaching kids the importance of agriculture.” 

Photographed by Ashleigh Newnes.

Williams said she was very involved in the FFA program in school, and she credits her teacher for her love of agricultural education. 

When choosing a college, Williams wanted to stay close to home, so she attended Motlow State Community College, where she earned her associate degree and then a bachelor’s degree in elementary education through Tennessee Tech’s 2+2 Program. 

After graduating from Tennessee Tech in May 2019, Williams eventually decided to substitute teach in Franklin County for her first year until she found another job opportunity. That opportunity popped up for Williams when she least expected it. 

She received a call from the late North Lake Elementary School Principal, Mr. Butler, about a teaching position. He asked her if she wanted to come in for an interview, and she accepted the job. 

Photographed by Ashleigh Newnes.

Unlike the usual 10-11 weeks of summer break, which many teachers use to get settled in for the school year, Williams had three days to get her classroom and lesson plans ready before the school year started, and she’s been there ever since. She is now in her fourth year of teaching at North Lake. 

She said, “It would take something crazy for me not to want to be at North Lake anymore.” 

Williams’s teaching career has come with its challenges. One of her biggest challenges comes during “test week.” 

She said she constantly tries to find ways during testing weeks to encourage her students and remain a constant support system while balancing the time crunch and excessive study material that test days bring. 

Williams hopes to create an environment where every student feels loved and supported. Many students within the school district have challenges to overcome at home. Williams said she hopes they can come to her classroom and receive the nurturing they need to be successful. 

“That’s the first step. If the child doesn’t feel safe, if the child doesn’t feel comfortable, if they don’t feel like they have a safe and comfortable environment to learn in, then they’re not going to learn. So that’s my first goal.” 

Williams said she wants to create a calm and happy classroom. 

One of the many ways Williams fuels her students’ creativity is by providing flexible seating options. 

“I don’t mind if they sit on the floor. I don’t mind if they stand up. I don’t mind the wobble stools. They can sit on the rug at the classroom library on one of the pillows. I also do not mind the fidget toys, as long as they are used as tools and not toys.” 

Williams believes students will learn more if they feel respected and cared for. She said one of the most rewarding parts of teaching is watching her students’ faces light up when they finally understand the lessons she taught. 

The self-awareness and confidence students express after they finally grasp concepts that once challenged them can bring a smile to any teacher’s face, especially those who go above and beyond to make their students’ growth and development a top priority. GN 

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