Saturday, June 29, 2013
Tomorrow, June 30, 2013, the community is celebrating the career of one of the influential superintendents in Illinois. Dr. Preston L. Williams, Jr. is retiring after 35 years as a teacher, coach, administrator, and superintendent. In each of these roles he positively influenced the lives of students, teachers, family members and members of the larger community. However, the role that I admire him most for is being a mentor. He has mentored me since he hired me as a middle school social studies teacher 24 years ago. I am not the only educational leader who has benefited from his wisdom, advice, and leadership. Dozens of my colleagues have become outstanding principals, district administrators, and teacher-leaders thanks to Dr. Williams’ encouragement. The lessons he has taught all of us are invaluable.
Perhaps the most important lesson Dr. Williams has instilled is the importance of putting students first. Dr. Williams stayed connected to students through the Champaign-Urbana 1 to 1 Mentoring Program (http://cu1to1.org/). He mentored several students from elementary school through graduate school and beyond. His commitment to his student mentees motivated many other members of the community to become mentors. Mentoring changes lives, and I am lucky to have had a mentor who is so committed to the idea of mentoring. Dr. Williams is retiring, but he will always be a mentor and role model for this community. For that I am forever grateful.