Nina "Will" Williams, A Fierce Warrior & Vibrant Advocate

Nina “Will” Williams is a fierce and unwavering advocate for students. Her love for reaching traditionally marginalized students and families shines through in all she does. Her deep understanding of instruction and strong leadership transformed the English Language Learners (ELL) and Dual Language (DL) programs in the Kent School District (KSD), constantly moving toward equity for nearly 6,000 of our culturally and linguistically diverse students and their families, making a multigenerational impact. 

Will joined KSD in 2009 as an Information Technology Specialist after teaching for many years in the Puyallup School District. She left KSD to become the Director of ELL and Student Services in Tukwila. She rejoined the KSD team in 2014 as the Director of Multilingual Education and AVID. Will is a student-centered administrator who relentlessly pursues equity for emergent bilingual students. 

Under Will’s leadership, the KSD Dual Language program has grown into a strong, sustainable K-12 program that initially began at Carriage Crest and Scenic Hill. It has since expanded to Kent Elementary, Neely O’Brien, and Mill Creek. The commitment to develop a K-12 program continues with our first cohort of Dual Language students moving on as 9th graders to Kent-Meridian High School in 2021-2022. In KSD, our DL students attain literacy instruction in both Spanish and English beginning in kindergarten. This simultaneous biliteracy structure of our program initiated by Will was crucial to providing an equitable education for DL students. In addition, the biliteracy framework has launched students on the road to becoming bilingual, biliterate, and multicultural. 

Will has continually worked to improve and strengthen the Dual Language program. For example, she brought well-known researchers Ginger Collier and Wayne Thomas to KSD and allocated funds to hire a DL instructional specialist. In addition, Will developed ongoing job-embedded professional development opportunities, including DL teachers engaging with grade-level PLCs, summer boot camp, and EL endorsement opportunities for teachers and administrators at school and district levels at no cost to participants.  

Will’s expertise in creating DL and ELL programs that achieve parity of instruction and on-time graduation for marginalized students has been sought after by other districts and agencies in the state and nation, including OSPI. She has been influential in shaping the guidance provided by the state around best practices in ELL program development and the creation of a K-12 Dual Language program. She receives requests for assistance from districts eager to learn more about the processes, curriculum, and instructional practices she has iterated across KSD. Other districts recognize and aspire to the equitable practices Will developed and implemented, seeking to emulate and inform their own practices in achieving parity of instruction and on-time graduation for all students acquiring English and Spanish within our school systems. 

Will was a loving and compassionate friend and a hard-working and deeply knowledgeable professional who has positively changed students’ lives through the Dual Language and EL programs. She developed personal relationships with those she worked with across the system, instilling confidence and making people feel supported and respected. She willingly stepped into uncomfortable spaces to ensure the best interest of the ELL and DL programs and the students these programs serve. She challenged the status quo with humor and empathy.

Nina Will Williams Dual Language ProgramOn May 10, 2021, Ms. Will “Nina” Williams passed away after battling cancer this year. She fought her cancer during this pandemic as fearlessly as she fought the inequities, injustice, and oppression she saw in the world around her. Will was a part of Team KSD, leading our Multilingual Education and Dual Language programs and advocating for students and families for nearly twelve (12) years. While her presence will be missed, her impact will be long-lasting. To honor this fierce warrior and vibrant advocate challenging us all to do better for our students, as of May 19, 2021, the KSD Dual Language program will now be known as the Nina “Will” Williams Dual Language Program. This fall, we will invite Will’s family, former students, colleagues, and friends to a ceremony at Scenic Hill Elementary School, where Will’s work in KSD began to unveil a plaque officially renaming the program. Additionally, KSD Staff members are working with the Kent Schools Foundation to start a Biliterate/Dual Language for KSD Graduates in Will’s honor; donations can be made in Will’s honor through the Kent Schools Foundation website. As we share in the sorrow of our KSD community’s loss, may we also honor Will’s memory with the same passion and commitment to students that symbolized her life.

Article Source: Kent Meridian High School