Jamaica-born educator Eleanor Williamson has received the 2023 Muller Award given to New York City public school teachers for professional influence in education.
The award recognises two New York City public school teachers who, during their tenure as Math For America (MƒA) master teachers, have influenced the teaching profession in exceptional ways.
Williamson is being awarded for her commitment to professional growth and her work in leading and sustaining professional learning communities that serve other teachers.
Williamson, who has been a teacher at the Urban Assembly School of Design and Construction, in Manhattan, for the past 14 years, was born in St Andrew. After residing in Spanish Town, St Catherine for a short period, her family moved to Norbrook. She attended Immaculate Prep and later The Queen’s School.
Williamson earned a BSc in botany and zoology from The University of the West Indies, Mona Campus, and an MSc Ed in science education from Lehman College. She is currently a PhD student at the CUNY Graduate Center, where she researches technology in education, science teaching, and learning.
She earned a certificate in education of the University of Technology in Jamaica that launched her teaching career.
She first worked at Wolmer’s Boys’ School and later at Holy Childhood High School, spending some two and a half years teaching in the Jamaican school system.
She migrated to Canada in 2002, but moved to New York City in 2004 after being accepted to teach in the city’s school system. She went back to Canada after a year, where she taught in the Canadian school system before returning to New York City to teach.
She has taught science for over 24 years in Jamaica, Canada, and New York, and has spent the past 14 years at the Urban Assembly School of Design and Construction (UASDC). At UASDC, Williamson has served as department chair, curriculum coordinator, mentor to new and student teachers, and as a member of the school’s equity team. She has been an adjunct lecturer at Brooklyn College, Hunter College, and Lehman College, and presented at national conferences. She’s also authored a book chapter, ‘Can You Get What You Really Want?’
Having taught in both the Jamaican and New York school systems, Williamson said the main difference between them is the fact that the Jamaican system does not give as much support to children with special educational needs.
“Children with learning disabilities require special help, which the Jamaican system does not provide to a level that will make a difference,” she said.
Williamson says she has given serious consideration to ways to assist the Jamaican school system, noting that teacher training and development is an area that she could contribute.
“My PhD studies provides an opportunity to contribute to support teaching and leadership in urban education,” she said.
Williamson describes her career path as “an amazing journey”.
“It is fulfilling and I am looking forward to what the future brings,” she told The Gleaner “There is a joy that comes from teaching and learning from my students.”
It is through teaching, she says, that she is able to develop a sense of community.
Her concentration on teaching science, however, stems from her desire to see more students of colour being represented in the science field, and that she wants her students to see science as a potential career.
Williamson collaborates with teachers across the state and country on content-related topics and pedagogy, and has facilitated MƒA Professional Learning Teams on literacy in science, and mentored early-career teachers and master teachers who are new to the fellowship programme.
The award comes with a prize of US$20,000, some of which Williamson says will be gifted to her parents who still reside in Norbrook, St Andrew.