Feature Teacher: Anshu Williams
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Anshu Williams is a lead preschool teacher at Active Louisville Kids in Louisville, Colorado, where she has worked with children and families for 10 years.
Tell us about yourself!
My name is Anshu Williams, and I moved to Boulder, Colorado when I was 19 and have been there ever since with my husband and two daughters. I realized that I wanted to be a part of early childhood education when I volunteered in the preschools of my own children. I believe that everyone deserves a safe environment to grow and to learn how to be a loving, accepting, and proactive part of their communities and beyond. I choose to fulfill this mission through teaching the youngest members of our society.
What is something important a child has taught you?
The biggest lesson children continue to teach me is resilience. When children in my class feel frustrated, angry, hurt, or sad, they take a necessary break but always return to being smiling, bubbly, and active learners afterward. One way I help children process difficult emotions is by finding a less distressing place to be. Then we talk through what they are feeling. We sit quietly for a time if needed, and I provide reassuring words until they are ready to talk with me.
This practice has taught me the importance of taking the time that you need when things do not go your way, letting yourself feel your emotions in a safe and healthy manner, and then helping yourself get back into the flow of things when you can. Resilience can be learned and fostered in all of us, including young children.
How do you show children and families that you value them?
A powerful strategy within a teacher’s toolbox is encouragement. I have found that gently encouraging them through their independent experiences yields the greatest growth and learning. For example, when children are learning new content or skills such as colors, shapes, or counting, they often feel frustrated if they do not have an immediate answer to give. Encouragement helps them understand that a wrong answer is nothing more than a learning opportunity that fosters growth.
Another essential tool in a teacher’s toolbox is understanding and partnering with families. Families are a part of your team to help each young child grow into a knowledgeable, independent person. Partnering with families means asking about their hopes and goals for their child’s time in your classroom, about their child’s strengths, interests, and preferences, and about how to work with their child so that they thrive. In turn, educators can share lots of examples of what their child is learning and how they are progressing in many ways, such as through photos, videos, child samples, and other documentation. These pieces also offer opportunities to discuss areas for attention or future growth. I have also created a relationship in which families can be honest with me; I have had conversations with family members about their contexts—their own well-being, how they are coping with their child’s journey in early childhood education, and how I can be of support. Doing this builds a strong partnership between families and educators that ultimately helps each child grow well.
What is your favorite children’s book and why?
My favorite children’s book is Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak. I like reading this book with children because of how it expands the reader's imagination. This is a very fun and engaging book to read because of how well it is illustrated, and the sense of adventure that it has. Children love this book and often act out the characters in the book, bringing the story to life. As a teacher, I believe this book has encouraged children to be braver, more creative, or adapt better to new learning environments.
What are you reading now?
Right now, I am reading Ruby Flew Too, by Jonathan Emmett, with my class. This is such a wonderful book about how developing slow and steady is a wonderful thing. The story is about a little duckling who appears to be behind the rest of its siblings when it comes to milestones like eating and swimming. But the mother duck has faith in her duckling. This is a great book to read when a child is having a difficult time, is comparing themselves to others, or is feeling a lack of confidence for some reason. The book will remind them that patience and faith in themselves will pull them through.
How do you take care of yourself?
If I am tired, I like to utilize mediation and silence. This helps me unwind and think about my day in an intentional way. I also like listening to classical music. Other times, I try to cross a few items off my to-do list—if they are constructive—because it always feels good to accomplish some tasks.
What is a future professional goal that you have for yourself?
Because I love working in early childhood education, I would like to pursue a degree in child psychology. This would really help me understand the child’s perspective and therefore, would help me identify, plan for, and implement different ways to respond to children in all aspects of their lives.
My teaching style is…
My teaching style is to put respect at the forefront of every technique and material that I use. Children should feel respected and heard so that they experience a sense of belonging and self-confidence and can learn to give that same respect and recognition in return. I emphasize being kind, and I model and readily share encouragement at any challenge. As much as possible, I place myself at eye-level with children to devote my attention directly to them. I want them to know that I hear them and that they are taken care of.
How does this issue’s theme of nature learning connect to your work with young children?
I am a play-based teacher who values learning through individual and group play. As part of a nature-based program, I know that nature is a huge part of play that can offer children new and different opportunities to learn through play. Recently in my classroom, we raised caterpillars to butterflies. Through playful learning, children directly interact with nature to learn about the life cycle of a butterfly; at the same time, they learned about nurturing another being. We built butterfly habitats, we drew artwork about our observations to share with families, and we retold stories to each other about butterflies that we saw outside of school. Nature is so multifaceted, and it spurs so many opportunities of learning through play and incorporate many domains into learning experiences.
Photographs: courtesy of Anshu Williams.
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