STEAM educator named JP Powell Middle School’s teacher of the year

Published 10:00 am Wednesday, November 16, 2022

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After 25 years of teaching, STEAM Educator Dr. Vickie Williams-Benson has received JP Powell Middle School’s Teacher of the Year honor.

“It was just such a great feeling to be recognized as one of the top teachers,” Williams-Benson said. “I was just praising God, because as people say, this day may never come again, and for me to get to this point was a great accomplishment.”

When Williams-Benson started college, her dream was to go into medicine. She pursued her bachelor of science degree with the intent of becoming an obstetrician-gynecologist. However, after working as a lab technician for several years, she began to reassess her career and decided to pursue education.

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Once there, she found her passion in teaching others. Since then, she has taught in six counties in Alabama and Georgia and at Virginia College and Tuskegee University.

“I do a lot because I see the need,” Williams-Benson said. “That’s my calling: to teach and help people to understand.”

With her background in science, it was obvious that Williams-Benson would become a STEM and STEAM teacher. In her current position, she sponsors and organizes countless events and programs for her students.

“What keeps me motivated is the more I do, the better I become,” she said.

On Nov. 8, Williams-Benson and her fellow teachers organized a National STEM Day event. The goal of the event was to keep students engaged and encourage more students to get involved in STEM projects.

“You have to make sure that you are instilling in these students the power of the brain, and making sure you have that engagement from the beginning of the class to the very end,” Williams-Benson said. “The class needs to go from bell to bell every single day regardless.”

The teacher of the year is passionate about the role that science plays in every student’s future career. Even if one of her students chooses a field outside of STEM, Williams-Benson said that they will find principles of science and technology all around them.

“In science, it doesn’t matter what the career is,” Williams-Benson said. “There are so many different options out there, whether you want to be a teacher or be a pharmacist. You really have to think about the creativity of it. Whatever you change into is still going to be related to science, regardless of how you look at it.”

Ingenuity in the classroom is important to Williams-Benson. She encourages hands-on, research-based and project-based learning in her STEAM classes. This way, her students are using critical thinking and collaboration.

“I’ve always done teamwork in my classes because I’ve done laboratory experiments with students, and I still do that now,” Williams-Benson said. “We’re not doing the chalkboard anymore. We’re facilitating the lessons. They’re learning by communicating with each other.”

Though it can be a challenge to commute to work, Williams-Benson is dedicated to her students’ education. She avoids having to use a substitute teacher so that she can be a consistent presence in the classroom.

“The easy part is making sure I’m here and that they get the best of me,” Williams-Benson said. “Because when I have something planned, I want to make sure it goes through for my kids and they are able to achieve that goal whatever day it is.”

In addition to winning the Teacher of the Year award, Williams-Benson is the new STEAM specialist for the elementary through middle school grades in the school district. She said that she sees these accomplishments as opportunities.

“With their choosing me to do this allowed me to let them know my talents and what I can bring to the table to make sure that our students are going to be at their very best, and that they are going to accomplish all the goals that they can accomplish,” Williams-Benson said.

Williams-Benson is the sponsor for the Science Club, the Outstanding Young Females Organization and the Dance Club. She is also a nationally certified STEM teacher.