As coordinator of student teaching, John Williams brings to Geneseo's School of Education a wealth of knowledge and experience matched with a passion and enthusiasm for his profession to students who are months away from beginning their careers.
He began his career in 1966, as a sixth grade teacher in Dansville for three years. From there, he achieved his master's degree in guidance and counseling, which he sought to apply as soon as possible. He became a guidance counselor in Hornell at the elementary, middle and high school levels. He went on to become a teaching principal in Hornell, working full-time in a fourth grade classroom and administrating on his gym and music breaks.
Williams proceeded to work at the American School of the Hague, an international school in the Netherlands with students of 35 different nationalities, and an even greater number of backgrounds. Some of their parents worked on foreign oil rigs; others worked as diplomats. Their field trips and sports teams went all around the world, from Rome to London. "You learn that education can take place in all different kinds of environments," he said. "That environment was a really rich one, because students brought so much into the classroom in terms of languages, cultures and places they had been."
After working at the American School of the Hague as a guidance counselor and principal, and having had "the opportunity to see education in a totally different perspective," Williams became the director of a private school outside of New York City. He then moved to the public school environment in Livonia, and worked there for 15 years before retiring and coming to Geneseo in 2001. "I came to this position looking at different perspectives - a private school, an international school, and a public school setting - so I think this is a great way to continue my career," Williams said.
This year, he is the coordinator of student teaching, which has brought a lot of paperwork, phone calls and ultimately rewarding experiences into his work. Currently, he is working with his colleagues to get new student teachers ready for the Fall. He also organizes a seminar series for current student teachers to gain important insight for the near future. On April 19, he hosted a seminar called Surviving and Thriving in your First Year of Teaching, where new teachers shared advice from the field.
"I've really enjoyed the opportunity to work with the School of Education faculty, and I work with great students who are interested in doing the very best they can do," he said. After completing their coursework and entering the field, students are filled with passion and excitement that gives Williams a thrill for his own work. He especially resonates with the position of supervising student teachers at work. "If a supervisor can impact a new teacher coming out, they're impacting tons of students down the road," he said.
That impact comes in a number of direct and indirect ways. "If we do our job right in terms of placement," Williams said, "we are placing students with cooperating teachers out in the field and matching them up with good supervisors." They also try to balance the experiences of student teachers, giving them one quarter in a high-needs or urban setting and another in a suburban or rural area. One placement will be at a primary level, while another will be at an intermediate level. According to Williams, many go into the profession unsure of where their passion lies, and some change their minds as they gain more field experience.
Student teaching is a mutually beneficial partnership between Geneseo and the other schools. According to Williams, "When you get out in the field, you're on a job interview, whether on a field experience or student teaching." Students gain in-field experience and contacts that can lead
to a job in the future, while schools get to meet and possibly bring in new prospective teachers. Most recently, Williams went to the University of Exeter in England with the idea of establishing a relationship to exchange ideas, faculty, research and student teachers.
In his life outside of school, Williams is devoted to his family, "with two grandsons that make things very interesting and meaningful." Having grown up on a farm, he has always had a love for agriculture and now owns a small farm of his own in Livonia. "The minute I get home, the tie goes off, the jeans go on, and I hop on the tractor," he said. "There's an awful lot I have yet to learn about it, and as I've gotten a little more time in my life I've really gravitated toward gardening and being outside."
His love for "physical, outside stuff" extends to biking, and cross-country skiing. Indoors, he has a love for reading and music. "My taste in books has changed a lot. I used to really enjoy a lot of fiction books, and I'm more into non-fiction now," he said. Williams plays the trumpet and sings, and named Josh Groban as his current favorite musical artist.
As coordinator of student teaching, Williams continues to leave a special mark on Geneseo's School of Education, as he has for so many other schools and students in the past. As for the future, he hopes only to share in the same passion that drives students into the teaching profession.