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Why #WeAchieveTogether: Teacher Kelly McWilliams

May 22, 2019 - Employee Excellence

Kelly McWilliams is an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) Reading & Language Arts teacher at Shields Middle School.

I started teaching in 1982 in Hillsborough County, and I chose to go to Achievement Schools because I felt it was my calling. I’m bilingual in Spanish and English. When I found out that at Shields Middle School the Hispanic population is about 65 percent, I thought that’s where I need to be.

I love my ESOL students, they are my diamonds. I tell them, “You are desired like a diamond, valuable like a diamond, and you have brilliance and sparkle like a diamond. You’re also tough and can push through and do anything you need to do.”

The desire to learn in some students is one that may not be innate and is one we have to build and create, especially their desire to read. Once students are exposed to literature that they like, or informational texts that appeal to them, they develop the taste for it and learn to love reading.

We are focused on building a culture in our classroom, starting at the beginning of the year, that is a safe, nonjudgmental place. The teddy bears allow the students to read when they may feel nervous reading aloud. Instead, they read to the teddy bear, and the teddy bear inspires them to feel more comfortable reading aloud now and in the future.

The success I’ve seen this year has been phenomenal. We use a reading program that I helped bring to this school called Achieve3000. It’s so fulfilling to see someone go from a 485 Lexile in September to a 625 now, or a 355 at the beginning of the year to a 670 now. These kids have built up their Lexile levels because they want to do well.

For me the reward of teaching is that glimmer of “I’ve got this!” that you see in students, and knowing that we’ve achieved that feeling together. We always tell our students, YOU are part of the success that can happen here, and it’s your scores and your knowledge that are going to make a difference in this whole school.

What a legacy to leave behind!

This is Why #WeAchieveTogether.

Do you know a dedicated Achievement Schools leader, teacher, staff or community member who you would like to see featured in Why #WeAchieveTogether? To nominate someone, contact Kendra Oestreich, Communications:

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Are you ready to lead, teach and inspire at Shields Middle School? Come join us, Teach in Tampa! For more information and to apply, visit

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