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Ellen Williams: Creating a Legacy of Learning

From the time she began teaching elementary school in Salt Lake City, Dr. Ellen Williams knew that she wanted to make a difference in the lives of her students. Motivated by this goal, she pursued a successful career in administration during which she created several innovative projects that have contributed to strengthening schools. Williams will retire this September, after over 30 years as an educator, 11 of them at Brigham Young University.

Having grown up in the small town of Fountain Green in central Utah, Williams chose to attend Utah State University, where she earned both her BS and MA degrees. She continued her education by earning a PhD from Brigham Young University. For 20 years, Williams taught fifth and sixth grade in the Granite School District of Salt Lake City, specializing in literacy and classroom management. During her time in this district, she also served as a central office administrator and as the principal of Fremont Elementary School.

Joining the BYU faculty in 1990, Williams became an associate professor, teaching graduate courses in the Department of Educational Leadership and Foundations. During her time at BYU, she co-directed the Leaders Preparation Program, the full-time master’s degree for school administration.

"A good education increases all children’s chances of success."

Among her greatest achievements at BYU, Williams co-directed the Principals Academy, a two-year study of professional learning communities in which she worked with practicing principals. “I wanted to prepare effective school leaders who could go out into the school system and increase the effectiveness of the endeavor of educating children,” says Williams about her Principals Academy service.

Williams’ passion for the future of children’s education motivated her and her colleagues Joe Matthews, Courtney Stewards, and Sterling Hilton to create the Learning Community Cultural Indicator, a research program that examines cultural shifts in professional learning communities.

“For the future of education, I want to see school leaders who know how to develop a culture in which all teachers are focused on youth learning essential skills and knowledge. A good education increases all children’s chances of success,” says Williams. Throughout a career of teaching and collaborating, Williams has created a legacy of teaching important leadership skills, impacting thousands of students and colleagues.

Williams is looking forward to taking a long trip to Maritime in Nova Scotia, Canada and additional traveling after retirement. She also plans to work with two colleagues in writing a book on classroom management coaching and to work as an education consultant. She also hopes to devote more time to serving in her local Latter-day Saint temple, and most importantly, she wants to have fun.

Ellen Williams began teaching at the McKay School in 1990; she has served as the co-director of the Leaders Preparation Program and as co-director of the Principals Academy in several Utah school districts.

19 September 2011