If These Halls Could Talk: Michael Williams Adjusts to Teaching Back In the States


Lily Matsui

Michael Williams works hard on lessons to make them interesting for students.

Michael Williams is the newest teacher in Rockville’s Social Studies department. After teaching abroad in Panama for two years, this is his first year teaching at Rockville and back in the United States. But even in his short time here, Williams has made an impact both in his classroom and out.

“I enjoy his enthusiasm when we do class talks because it gets everyone into the lesson,” junior Emely Abreu said.

While he might not have worked at Rockville, Williams is not new to MCPS, having worked at other schools in the county during his remarkable 20 years in education. For the past two years of his career, Williams was on an international exchange teaching children in Panama.

“Students are students wherever you go,” Williams said. “But their parents valued learning English and going to an English-speaking school with the hopes of going to a university in the U.S. or Europe so they can have access to some of the top jobs in Panama.”

Thanks to his exchange at an international school, it wasn’t too much of a drastic transition for Williams when returning to Montgomery County. Most of his adjustment to Rockville was small, but he missed some differences between teaching abroad and teaching back home.

“We had outside spaces for the classroom all year round, so I miss that,” Williams said. “But much of it was similar.”

Williams is also one of the reasons for the county’s Minority Scholars Program. Created in 2005 by a group at Walter Johnson High School, the Minority Scholars Program aims to close the opportunity gap within Montgomery County. Through the program, members become great advocates for better education opportunities to be accessible to those that may otherwise be overlooked and passed over.

“We looked closer into some of the issues and realized that we had to create a change,” said Williams. “It kind of just emerged that the students wanted to do something about it, they took it by the horns and became a student-led and student-driven organization.”

Since its creation, the Minority Scholars Program has helped pave the way for many opportunities to open up and become more accessible for students. The program has now grown from a chapter at Walter Johnson HS to a network of 25 high schools and 22 middle schools involved in its mission. While the county may still have a ways to go, it’s clear that this program and the people who sponsor it are hard at work to get the access everyone deserves, as well as shaping members into people ready to create change.

“Mr. Williams provides engagement as well as creating advocates, in a sense,” senior Sara Abdelgadir said.

When asked about his goals in the classroom, Williams seems to hold his classes to the same goals as the Minority Scholars Program. He aims to create success and self-reliance in his classroom, as well as a welcoming and inviting atmosphere for all involved.

“I hope that I get across to all of them that they’re valued and they’re capable,” Williams said. “The more we push them, the more we encourage them, the more we show them that they’re valued, they rise to the occasion.”