Allendale native named top teacher at Spartanburg High School

  • Carmilla V. Williams, a 2007 graduate of Allendale-Fairfax High School, was named Spartanburg High School Teacher of the Year.

An Allendale native was recently named Spartanburg High School’s 2017-2018 Teacher of the Year.

Carmilla V. Williams, the youngest daughter of Stephanie Williams-Rouse and Ronnie D. Jackson, said she seeks to equip and inspire students to live “meaningful lives of leadership and service as world citizens.” This includes embodying the values of District 7 and Spartanburg High School—tradition, excellence, innovation, hope, engagement, well-being, and valuing relationships.

“I'm not the perfect teacher by far, but I've learned to authentically and genuinely be me, and that's the most rewarding. In just a few years of teaching, I have learned that authenticity, compassion, and empathy are by far the best lessons I could ever teach. It has been my hope that others will see this as a reflection of God's grace, and be encouraged to embrace who they are where they are. I teach my students that your authentic self is the greatest gift you can give the world,” said Williams.

To get to where she is today, the 2007 graduate of Allendale-Fairfax High School had to overcome adversity, including struggles with ADHD and a speech impediment, being the product of a single parent home, abject poverty and growing up in a low-income school.

“Yet, I was never bound by circumstances, because, at an early age, the flame of curiosity was ignited, and ever since then, I was intrinsically motivated to learn and be all that I could. It is my hope that I would teach my students to do the same—to understand that curiosity is the catalyst for growth and learning. My ultimate goal is to create lifelong learners. I hope to motivate students internally and build their confidence in learning, despite their environment and circumstances,” said Williams.

She originally thought teaching would be the worst career option due to having ADHD and a speech impediment, but she now realizes that having ADHD helps her fully understand students on a different level. “This proves to me that teaching is more than knowledge. It’s about connecting and building relationships. I understand that I spend a lot of time with students, so it’s important to me to take advantage of the opportunity to teach beyond the curriculum. I’ve found that the rewards of teaching far outweigh the challenges, and that is what makes this profession so enjoyable,” she said.

Williams grew up in a town where more than half of the population lives below the poverty line and attended the Allendale County School District where the state was in charge of day-to-day operations from 1999 until she graduated. She remembers having a different principal each year from seventh through twelfth grade, using outdated textbooks, having mice in the halls and leaks in the classrooms. She understands how poverty can negatively impact education, but she never let her environment limit her learning.

“These memories not only influenced my decision to become an educator, but they also compelled me to study the correlations between poverty and education,” said Williams, who now realizes that learning isn’t limited to knowledge acquired from books or people, but rather the knowledge one gains through “reflection and experience”.

“As I matured, I understood the power of curiosity, and suddenly, my passionate desire to learn evolved into a passionate desire to teach. The more I evolved as a learner, the more eager I became to teach others the gift of inquisitiveness,” she said. “I desire to build lifelong learners who regard information as a prize rather than something forced upon them.”

She is a believer in Nelson Mandela’s quote: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

“It is at the heart of every person to desire change. Individual change occurs when people are bold enough to think independently instead of seeking safety in numbers. Collective change occurs when we choose to act compassionately and consciously toward one another in a world that is plagued by violence, intolerance, discrimination, and inequality. As an educator, I realize that I possess a great power to influence and prepare students to change the world,” said Williams.

After graduating from Allendale-Fairfax, Williams attended the University of South Carolina Upstate where she majored in Secondary Education with a concentration in English.

She completed student teaching at Spartanburg High School where she then began her educational career as an 11th and 12th grade English Language arts teacher. She has since taught 10th grade courses, an African-American Literature elective course, become the advisor for the Black History Club, and started a step team “that focuses on character development, love and service.”