Three Questions with Monique Williams '03

What is your proudest professional accomplishment?  

One of my proudest professional accomplishments was when I was invited to Seoul National University of Education in Korea to provide a 3-day workshop for in-service elementary and secondary math teachers.  I remember the day like it was yesterday, I was working on a NSF grant during my doctoral program at George Mason University (GMU).  I just finished leading the summer institute for 60+ teachers developing proportional reasoning through mathematical modeling under the grant. My professor, the principal investigator on the grant, called me into her office and shared the news that she could only select 2 students to take to Korea for this workshop and to pack my bags we were leaving in 2 days! Prior to this workshop, I had experience doing research, working on numerous grants, and providing professional development seminars for math teachers in Northern Virginia. However, this would be my first experience broadening my impact of developing teachers both nationally and internationally in the field of mathematics education. Looking back this experience jumpstarted my desire to shift my goal of becoming a tenure-tracked professor to supporting Districts in math instructional best practices and using data to inform instruction. I currently am a Manager of Secondary Math for DC Public Schools where I support approximately 50 schools, 18,000 students, and 3,000 teachers in the district. I develop curriculum, create professional development workshops, create district-wide assessments to monitor student progress towards grade-level outcomes, as well as promote instructional best practices through co-teaching, and co-planning models.  I also guide school and classroom level data-driven discussions to inform best practices, co-plan with teachers and math coaches, lead classroom observations and debriefs, as well as provide targeted feedback on how to be an effective math coach and assistant principal in transforming student math achievement. I often participate in instructional walkthroughs to collect evidence of classroom practices and lead discussions with Principals and Superintendents to identify high leverage next steps for instructional development. Outside of working with DC Public Schools I also am an independent contractor and work with an education company to build secondary math teachers and school leaders knowledge of high-quality instructional materials, college and career-ready standards, and equitable teaching practices through professional development across multiple states.  I often miss being in the classroom so every Fall semester I teach a Master’s level course for pre-service math teachers at GMU where I find joy in mentoring students who are eager to become first-year math teachers and I get to support their development.  Through all of my experiences so far, I truly am thankful for my first opportunity to extend my research internationally as it has propelled me into where I am now in my career. It truly was a pivotal moment.   

What’s the most important lesson you learned from Garrison Forest?

When I think of this question what comes to mind is reaching back in support of women.  As a student, I remember young alumnae coming back to the Forest at the Young Alumnae Tea or just to simply roam the halls and catch-up with teachers. I would hear stories about how to navigate college and juggling their social life and school. I also remember Career Day and alumnae returning to the Forest to give a broad spectrum of types of careers and possibilities for us current students to consider. We internalized the struggles that the alumnae shared that they have overcome as well as their successes.  These women were being authentic and reached back to support the next. As far as I can remember I wanted to do the same. In college, I came back to the Forest and was eager to still have a connection to current students and began to tutor math students spanning elementary to high school. Mrs. Polvinale, the Head of Upper School at the time, sat me down and mentored me as a then 19 year old. She helped me think through how to design my tutoring fliers and encouraged me. After a few years of tutoring, I wanted to become more immersed in GFS and I had the opportunity to sit on the Alumnae Board.  I looked forward to sitting on the Career Day panels and sharing my successes and lessons learned. I also looked forward to the 10th Grade Speed Interviewing event where alumnae support current 10th graders development of their resumes and give feedback on interviewing techniques.  It’s touching that I have the opportunity to now reach back as others have done for me.    

For What In Your Life Do You Feel Most Grateful? 

When I think about what I’m most grateful for I immediately think of the quote by Sonya Renee Taylor:

“We will not go back to normal. Normal never was. Our pre-corona existence was never normal other than we normalized greed, inequity, exhaustion, depletion, extraction, disconnection, confusion, rage, hoarding, hate and lack. We should not long to return, My friends. We are being given the opportunity to stitch a new garment. One that fits all of humanity and nature. “

We are living through unusual and trying times during this pandemic.  In fact, we are living in a time where we have no real idea of how long this will go on and what re-entry to “normal” will look like. In addition to navigating this pandemic, I have spent quarantine undergoing rehabilitation as a result of a head-on collision with a drunk driver where I suffered a broken ankle and shin. I spent the past year undergoing 2 surgeries and weekly physical therapy appointments as I relearn to walk.  In fact, I am gearing up for my third and hopefully final surgery in my recovery journey.  Through navigating this pandemic, my health, juggling work, finishing my dissertation, and being a mom to two toddlers, I have shifted my perspective and found that life-altering situations do have silver linings and positive outcomes. Through working virtually due to this pandemic, I am so grateful for the extra time I get to spend with little ones who are growing up so quickly. I am grateful for my husband and for our life together as he has been my rock through all of these adjustments and keeps our family laughing and seeing the glass half full. I am also grateful for the GFS community, as the Alumnae Board sent flowers and an encouraging note early in my rehabilitation journey which lifted my spirits. I am grateful for my friends and fellow GFS alumnae Anne Deady (’01) and Molly Muedeking (’03) who made it a mission to come by and bring me lunch and magazines to read while I was on bed rest. I am especially grateful for this pause to be able to reflect on what’s important to me — to ask myself whether all aspects of my life are purposefully aligned or whether some areas need grooming.