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West Valley City Journal

Courage never quits for this newly retired teacher

Jun 15, 2020 01:42PM ● By Kathryn Elizabeth Jones

Jackling Elementary teacher Linda Williams has been teaching kids how to succeed in school and life since 1979. (Photo courtesy Linda Williams)

By Kathryn Elizabeth Jones| [email protected]

“You don’t really have to change until you have to.” 

That’s what Linda K. Williams, who has just finished her last year as a fourth-grade teacher at Jackling Elementary and is retiring this year, said as school was coming to a close. 

Williams has been teaching school since 1979. Her first stint was as a ninth-grade teacher of English in southern Idaho.

“I was clueless,” she said. “I was given a class who was predicted to fail. They were in the high risk, gray area, and it was up to me to straighten things out.”

When the current teacher quit right before Christmas, she was asked if she could take over the class. The previous teacher was afraid to teach junior high.

“Let me at them,” Williams recalled.

She has been a teacher ever since.

Though Williams has taught kindergarten, first, third, fourth, fifth, seventh, eighth, and ninth grades, she said her favorite grade has to be fourth. But she didn’t know that fourth-graders were her favorite age group until “I wasn’t teaching fourth,” she said. 

“Fourth graders are independent thinkers, but they’re not quite teenagers yet.”

Williams believes all children have an “infinite possibility” to be great. She throws down the “labels” they many have come with and gets to know each member of her class as an individual. “It’s such a privilege,” she said. 

Williams has had many students see themselves differently after being taught in her class, and many of these students she’s watched grow into successful members of society.

“They are successful as an adult, successful as a parent,” she said.

When the recent COVID-19 outbreak shut her school’s doors, Williams was surprised along with everyone else. 

“I didn’t even have a map,” she said. 

Things were tough in the beginning — planning, the delivery of materials, connecting online and making sure her students felt like they were a part of a class that was no longer physically together.

Eighty percent of Williams’ class has made contact with her since her class has gone online. And those who have, have been able to “work at their own pace.” 

“They are currently operating like kids a lot older,” Williams said. 

Williams doesn’t miss the bullying and behavior problems within the school settings she’s experienced for many years now. She feels sure that though the end of this school year is quite different than what she has experienced previously, including the fact that this is her last year, that her students are taking on this new experience with positivity and courage.

“I am so fortunate to have had the wonderful class I’ve had this year. We’re going through this historic time together. I love them. I will miss the large groups of kids I am used to teaching and my wonderful colleagues, but I plan on staying connected. How grateful I am to Granite School District for the experience.”