patrick-williams_web.jpgDreads, a grill and a personality that puts students at ease defy the typical tradition of a teacher. Mr. Patrick Williams, soon to be Dr. Patrick Williams, is the ideal model of the saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

Born in Jamaica, Williams is 42 years young and speaks Spanish, English, French, Haitian Creole, sign language and Patois, and is in the process of learning Korean.

Williams has received numerous college degrees, including his Bachelors of Arts in Spanish from Florida International University as an invitational scholar; a Master’s of Education in Social Cultural Foundations from Florida Atlantic University Williams; specialist in education in Mathematics from University of Miami and he's currently a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Education’s Teaching and Learning Department at the University of Miami.

If that's not enough, Williams was awarded a scholarship to attend the college of nursing at the University of Miami this summer to work on a research grant to examine Hispanic health issues.

He has exceedingly diverse taste in music, including reggae, salsa and rap; and he plays classical piano. But teaching is his passion.

Williams believes in teaching in a way in which the student actually learns. “If a child can be labeled as learning disabled, what we call LD,  then a teacher can be labeled as TD for having a teaching disability because if that child has as inability to learn, largely based on the part of the school, then teachers can have teaching disabilities when students don’t learn.”

“A lot of times [teachers] use the word teaching, teaching, teaching, and students are not learning,” said Williams. “I think teachers need to let the students come to them about what they do, they need support.”

I first encountered Williams on a panel of professionals at a Black History program at my school (Dr. Michael Krop Senior High) earlier this year. In addition to his attention-grabbing appearance, I found Williams to be exceptionally approachable because his demeanor seemed so engaging. More teachers like Mr. Williams should be employed because his approach works.

“I took a group of 9th and 10th graders to the AP Spanish language exam in 2006-07, 2005-06 and of those 20 students, 16 of those students passed the AP exam and my 9th graders passed with a 5 (the highest score). In 2006-07 I took 18 students to the AP exam again in an inner city Title 1 school, William H. Turner Tech, and 100% of my students passed the AP exam,” said Williams. Title 1 schools have at least 75% of  students receiving free or reduced price lunch.

Ironically, Williams said he was removed from Turner Tech because the principal, Valmarie Rhoden, apparently had a problem with his appearance. According to a Nov. 2007 New Times article, when he questioned the use of grant money that the school had received, he was accused of harassing the principal and was removed. 

That investigation is still in the works. I could not reach Ms. Rhoden to ask her why she would rather have someone as smart and dedicated as Mr. Williams removed from his position instead of teaching students.

He is currently at the predominantly Hispanic Westland Hialeah Senior High School and desires to teach at an inner city school again. “My love is to be in an inner city school because I want my Black children to really see a model that they can have. But I like teaching, I like the school that I’m at, I love students period. Whether they’re Black, White, Hispanic, Haitian – I just like teaching,” said Williams.

His attire represents what he stands for and what he stands for is maintaining your identity and staying true to yourself.

“I’m [going to] be me. I’m [going to] maintain who I am…I must set an example to be a model in effect, but at the same time maintaining my identity and maintaining who I am.” He also encourages students to be themselves.

“There’s a poem that I always recite to students when I go and lecture and give workshops and it’s called, “Be Yourself,” by Bruce B. Wilmer. Williams proceeded to recite the poem from memory.

Williams also acknowledged that he dresses the way that he does to challenge stereotypes.

“I can’t deny that I don’t do it to cause some upset I guess in other people because of stereotypes. There are a lot of stereotypes among adults and I’m here to break the stereotype. To show people that looks are one thing but you can’t judge a book by its cover, because its content will surprise you.”

Photo by Elgin Jones/SFT Staff. Patrick Williams