COLUMBUS COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — Step inside Tara Williamson’s class and you’ll quickly see hand painted coats of arms displayed on the walls.
“The students have to research their name, origin and where it comes from,” said Williamson. “It’s just a way to get to know them better, they find out a lot about themselves and its such a fun project to do.”
In addition to teaching twelfth graders English and British Literature at East Columbus High School, Williamson also coaches the tennis and bowling teams.
“Being with all these kids all this time keeps me young,” she said.
On a desk at the front of the classroom, Williamson places an assortment of fruit and snacks every day any students who may show up to class hungry.
“I just feel it a necessity that its a need for those kids and if it means me taking me out of my pocket, I want to provide more for them,” she said. “Not every student is fortunate to get a good breakfast.”
This isn’t the only challenge in this small, rural school district.
“It is a challenge in the fact that some aren’t fortunate at home to even have technology, others do,” she said. “We sort of balance that out in the classroom.”
Don’t mistake her kindness for being a pushover. Williamson’s classroom is a ‘no cell zone’ and the rule is clearly posted on the door as you enter her classroom.
“They turn them off, they put them in my basket and I put them in my little office, and then we don’t have any trouble,” she said. “At the end of class, about five minutes before class is over, I start giving those out and speaking to the students individually.”
What may surprise you is that Williamson initially avoided going into the teaching profession.
“I just did not think it was for me,” she said.
Before her mother died of cancer, she encouraged Williamson to pursue teaching.
“Her last words were, ‘I want to see you in the classroom teaching but if I do not get to, I want to know that’s what you’re doing,'” Williamson said.
Twenty years later, she’s still teaching and enjoying it.
We read a portion of the nomination we receieved from a viewer which reads: “Several of her kids still keep in touch with her. They know she will always be their biggest fan and they can call her ‘mom.’ She is truly a teacher and coach extraodinaire.”
Williamson, who was visibly touched by the comment, replied, “That’s very, very special.”
“The kids look up to her, they know that they can come to her and talk to her,” said East Columbus High School Principal Jeremiah Johnson. ” She can offer good advice. She’s getting them ready for post graduation and she does an awesome job, she’s an awesome person. I’m glad she’s here.”
How does it feel to be making such a life-changing impact on students?
“To know that I’m reaching and they’re taking that in — makes me feel so much better [and] to know that I have made a positive influence because that’s my purpose for being here,” she said.