Michelle Cottrell-Williams 2018 Virginia Teacher of the Year
Ms. Cottrell-Williams has taught Social Studies at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virginia since 2006. She believes her responsibility as an educator is to know her students individually, discover their strengths, and give them a safe space to become the best versions of themselves. She recognizes that not all children learn in the same ways and works with intention to create an environment where all students can find success. Ms. Cottrell-Williams adapts her practice to meet students’ needs instead of expecting them to assimilate to the type of schooling that happened to work for her.
Beyond the content, Ms. Cottrell-Williams aims to teach her students that failure is part of the human experience, but it doesn’t define your worth. As a Social Studies teacher, she has taught many different subjects and levels of students, but always comes back to her two passions - Sociology and English learners. It is here where she finds the greatest opportunities to support students who sometimes struggle to feel like they belong. By establishing relationships built on trust and empathy, she helps them learn to recognize their inherent strengths and find their voice.
Serving as her school’s Instructional Lead Teacher and chair of the Professional Learning Committee, she works closely with teachers and administrators to identify problems of practice, determine foci for professional growth, and support instructional excellence through innovative, personalized learning opportunities.
Ms. Cottrell-Williams earned a B.S. in History from Utah State University, an M.Ed.in Secondary Education: Social Studies from The George Washington University, and an M.Ed. in Curriculum Instruction: Teaching Culturally and Linguistically Diverse and Exceptional Learners from George Mason University.