Colony math teacher in line for national award

Zaz Hollander
Bob Williams

PALMER -- A Colony High School math teacher is one of five finalists for a national teaching award.

Bob Williams will travel to Washington, D.C., in February for an NEA Foundation awards gala honoring the nation's top educators, according to a press release from the foundation, an independent charity presenting the award along with the NEA, the national teachers' union.

Finalists were chosen from 38 public-school educators nominated by their peers. Williams, the 2009 Alaska Teacher of the Year, was nominated by NEA-Alaska.

He had to beat out 30-something other teachers around the country for this latest honor.

At 44, Williams has been a teacher for 23 years. He graduated from Palmer High School and taught at Valley schools including Palmer, Houston and Colony, where he's spent the last four years.

But before that, Williams said, his career took him to far-flung places. After joining the Peace Corps in the mid-1980s, Williams taught math in Gambia, then spent two years on a fellowship teaching in New York City -- in Harlem, the Bronx and Brooklyn. In Alaska, he traveled to Savoonga, Gambell and Nome as a statewide mentor.

Math students are the same everywhere, he said. "You have some kids that really like mathematics, some that find it really challenging. You work to motivate those that aren't motivated and challenge those that love math."

He will travel with his wife, Connie, to the gala. At the event a national winner will be selected and will receive The NEA Member Benefits Award for Teaching Excellence and $25,000. The other four finalists will each be awarded the Horace Mann Award for Teaching Excellence and $10,000.

Finalists also receive digital arts training for their schools from the Pearson Foundation. Video profiles created by teams of students and teachers from their schools will be shown at the gala, the press release states.