Keara Williams: TEP Alumna Overcomes Students’ Lack of Participation

AP English teacher reaches out to her South L.A. students who miss out on remote learning environment due to digital divide, familial responsibilities.

TEP alumna Keara Williams was highlighted in The Los Angeles Times for her efforts in reaching her students during the closure of LAUSD schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Williams, who teaches at the Responsible Indigenous Social Entrepreneurship school, on the Hawkins High School campus in the Vermont-Slauson neighborhood of South Los Angeles, after two-thirds of the juniors in her AP English class had not responded for three weeks to any of her messages about assignments.

“Teachers, counselors and administrators are trying to get those students back,” wrote Sonali Kohl in the April 6 Times article on Williams. “Many students, meanwhile, are telling teachers they receive emails about Zoom calls hours late through the district’s system, and the program they use to check for work does not always show them posted assignments on time. Others lack WiFi access at home and many are helping their families care for younger siblings.”

Through her effort to phone her students at home and provide connection and support instead of disciplining her students for lack of participation, Williams overcame the challenges of distance learning, the digital divide, and even language barriers – courtesy of her own Spanish-speaking grandmother from Belize.

“There’s a lack of black teachers in LAUSD alone and just teaching period,” Williams said in the article. “I think the fact that I’m black, I’m from the community… I’m cultured. I think all of that helps me build my relationships with them,” she said.

In the article, Williams noted that she wanted to make sure that her students were not penalized for lack of participation or turning in their work because they did not have internet access, and that she would work with her teaching colleagues to make that happen.

Leaving messages with parents has also yielded results, as Williams’ students returned her calls. She told the Times that she suspects that more of them will now stay in touch.

“I just have a feeling that the word’s going to spread that Ms. Williams is calling home, like it always does,” she said. “That means that they’ll probably try to email me before I call home.”

Williams, who graduated from UCLA’s Teacher Education Program in 2017, was a member of the first-ever Ethnic Studies cohort in the nation.

To read, “One teacher’s quest to track down her students amid coronovirus school closure” in The Los Angeles Times, visit this link.

Above: Courtesy of Keara Williams