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Williams has been ‘educating the whole child’ for 35 years

by Dana Sleger//

When Yvonne Williams reflects on her 35-year career as a preschool teacher at Coast Episcopal School, she has enough precious memories to fill a book. Thousands of preschool students throughout the Gulf Coast have been blessed to be under her instruction, which is guided by a philosophy of “educating the whole child.” To Williams, this simply means providing an environment of love that fosters growth socially, emotionally, physically, intellectually and spiritually.

“Children need to be developmentally in balance with themselves,” Williams says. “To stress one area over the others does not work well for the child. As I have often said, they are not ‘hot house tomatoes.’ Patience, patience and more patience! When a parent stops you at Walmart after their child has become an adult and thanks you for their preschool experience, I take that as a testimony to our success.”

This “testimony” was evident when Coast Episcopal held a celebration event in May to honor Williams’ retirement. After dedicating her life to early childhood education, the overwhelming attendance by friends, community leaders, alumni, parents and visitors was very special for Williams. Mississippi State Senator David Baria also delivered a proclamation to commemorate her academic achievement.

The decision to retire was not an easy one for Williams, but at age 72, she knew it was time to write a new chapter in her life story. So what does retirement look like for Williams?

“I have never been much of a planner, but more of an adjuster,” she says. “I’m looking forward to spending time with family, volunteering at Coast Episcopal School and cooking.”

Williams, left, with her 3-year-old 1985 class.

Prior to her teaching career at Coast Episcopal, she was a  registered dietitian and taught nutrition classes to nursing students, but the draw to teaching young ones began before she was a teenager.

“My love for children began when I started babysitting when I was 12 years old,” Williams says. “It was then that I discovered I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with children.”

Teaching at Coast Episcopal worked especially well for her family since her own two children attended the school and the job change coincided nicely with their schedule. Working with her children tops the list of favorite memories for Williams, as well as spending 27 years with “one of the most talented teachers,” Janice Caridad.

To present and future students at CES, her advice is simple: “You have one opportunity at being your age. Enjoy it and do not rush.”

To men and women currently studying to be preschool teachers, Williams’ years of wisdom is worth heeding: “Make sure you love the age group and prepare yourself by reading and learning from others who have been successful at understanding what is developmentally appropriate for preschoolers.”

And as far as what Williams wants her life legacy to be, her heart shines through four beautiful words: “She loved our children.”