On Wednesday, March 14, Ms. Alesia Williams (English, Humanities) was given the ExCEL Award, the most prestigious award JCPS gives its teachers. Several representatives from JCPS, the Jefferson County Teachers Association, WHAS-11, LG&E, and Manual’s English department gave short speeches about Mrs. Williams’ inspirational teaching.
Gary Roedemeier, a former WHAS-11 news anchor, was the first to speak. Reading peer evaluations from other teachers, he called Williams “compelling—irresistible—a model of great teaching. She is the first choice.” Brent McKim, JCTA president, added, “You shine a light that we can be guided by, and we appreciate that.”
In addition to the ExCEL Award itself, the various representatives awarded Ms. Williams the Superintendent’s Medallion, the ExCEL Award Golden Apple, the School House Award, and a thousand-dollar check.
Many of Ms. Williams’ students were present during the ceremony as audience members and ushers. They gave Ms. Williams several standing ovations—and occasionally waved large blowup pictures of her head, much as sports crowds do.
“I think it’s really great that Ms. Williams gets recognized. She’s my favorite teacher I’ve had at Manual and I know she works really hard,” Claire Lockard (12), who has had Williams for two years, said.
Ms. Carole Sanders, who, like Ms. Williams, teaches AP English Language and Composition, gave the final speech in Ms. Williams’ honor, in which she talked about students’ habits for comparing teachers. ”Honestly, I’d rather be compared to a summer’s day—or Shakespeare himself,” she said. “Last year teachers in Kentucky were introduced to CHETL… Characteristics of Highly Effective Teaching and Learning. I would be willing to swear that the Department of Education has been stalking Mrs. Williams’ classroom.”
Ms. Williams said after the ceremony, “I feel very honored and a little surprised by what people had to say about me, but especially by Ms. Sanders’ speech, because it was whimsical, clever, and funny. It really seemed to show how much she knows me as a teacher, which is a really high form of praise.”
Ms. Williams’ own speech concluded the ceremony. She read thank-you notes from current and former students and teared up as she discussed how her parents raised six children on a factory worker’s salary. She discussed the ironic fact that she, as an English teacher, used to abhor reading. She finished by ending her speech with an analysis of her own rhetorical techniques—an assignment with which her AP English students are very familiar.