TEACHER INCORPORATES HARLEY INTO READING PROGRAM
Mr. Williams with his Harley
Mr. Williams with his class
After a dozen years of teaching, Ryan Williams has found a new way to think outside the box. He literally jumps on his Harley Davidson and drives out of that box, straight to the homes of his students. Once there, he sits down with them and reads books, helps them with homework and gets to know their parents.
Though this particular idea of visiting students came to him just this year, Williams said making home visits was something his former mentor Tony Baulos suggested.
“He told me this gave him a different perspective on where people are coming from, issues that they might be having, and he challenged me to do it,” Williams said, adding that he accepted that challenge this year as one of Waynesboro Primary School’s big initiatives is building relationships with the students.
“Relationships foster trust and that helps improve things within the school and our school system. So I thought a home visit might be the way to go, a way to do something extra. I’ve been on a motorcycle since I was five so I thought building the bridge between the motorcycle and the home visits would encourage participation … that my kids would like it.”
And boy do they. Though they act shy when asked about their teacher, they trip over one another trying to stand close to him in a picture, and they all agree, “He’s really cool.”
One eight-year-old stood at the window on the afternoon of his scheduled visit, smiling ear-to-ear before squealing, “There he is!” as the motorcycle’s engine rumbled and Williams was visible coming around the curve.
“He was anticipating this visit all day,” his father, Ashley Moore, said, adding that the boy was enamored by Williams and so proud to have him inside his home. “It was really good to experience this, to see a teacher making such a commitment to make this community a little better and a little more united. Mr. Williams is a true example of what it means to show you care. These students will never forget him.”
A total of 11 students are currently participating in the program, and Williams hopes that more parents will sign up once this first cycle is complete.
He admits to being nervous himself during that very first visit. “It was good and everything went as planned, but it was still something I had never done before,” he recalls. “When we finished, I spoke with the mama for a good thirty minutes, just discussing issues she had or things she wanted to talk about, the areas where I could help. Then we went outside and checked out the bike.”
He pauses to say that even on the cold days, he kept his promise of showing up on the motorcycle. “My goal was to show these kids that I’m not just Mr. Williams the teacher all the time. I’m also human, and I want them to see me in a unique light.”
Though the goal was to reach his students, Williams says the biggest difference made has actually been for himself.
“I’m seeing certain things in a different way because I’m seeing their home life. There’s a reason why certain kids act the way they do – maybe they’re not getting what they need, maybe they are, and that’s part of what I tell parents. I’m not here to judge. I don’t care if your house is clean. I’m just here to interact and have this time with you and my student,” he says. “I also tell them that our child is our biggest investment but you’re only going to get out of it what you put into it. So we have to take our time, help them where we need to. Nurture them.”
While Williams is setting a new foundation, he’s seeing that his students are accepting it with open arms.
“That’s all I wanted,” he says. “If you get a child to buy into what you’re doing then they’ll grow. They’ll excel. But if they don’t, they’ll tune you out. I wanted to do something different that might catch their attention, so I said, ‘You know what? Let’s try something new.’ And that’s where we’re at today. I’m not the most organized guy. I’ll probably never be teacher of the year, but that’s fine. I just want to build that relationship where I’m in the community, shopping at Walmart or eating at Papa’s Pizza or somewhere like that, and kids run up to me. This has brought nothing but good vibes for the school, for me and for the kids, and that is what I’m happy about.”
This story first appeared in The True Citizen