It was while working in luxury furniture that Freda Williams realized she was destined to be a teacher. More interested in sharing information on textiles than selling ergonomic chairs, she has a natural gift as an educator. Nearly two decades later, Williams is widely acknowledged by her peers as being a kind, creative and passionate inspiration to her students. In 2018, she was recognized by the Florida Literacy Association as Teacher of the Year after being nominated by her co-workers.
Williams teaches third grade at Pine View School in Osprey. Her favorite subjects are English, language arts, and social studies, though she’s always up for an engaging art project. (Earlier this year, her students gave a dramatic performance on various artists, from Frida Kahlo to Stan Lee, dressed as wax sculptures come to life. ) She’s inspired by Lin-Manuel Miranda, whose musical Hamilton energized people to learn about our founding fathers using creative methods. When asked what draws her to teaching, she says, “Definitely the kids. They are so fun and so different each year. They are amazing little humans and I learn a lot from them.”
If Pine View doesn’t keep her busy enough, Williams also teaches visual arts for children at the Van Wezel and tutors on the side. In her limited downtime, you’ll find her reading a book or scouting interesting travel locations. She loves visiting places with a rich history and a few good ghost stories, like Savannah or St. Augustine. Always up for new experiences, she also enjoys exploring Sarasota’s arts scene and theater community.
So what does this artsy educator carry in her Harry Potter themed Vera Bradley bag?
Calling it her “catch-all,” Williams’s tote holds supplies to get her through her day and support her multiple duties. There are classic essentials, such as car keys, gum and hand lotion, along with modern ones like anti-bacterial spray and a spare disposable mask. Her trusty elephant notebook keeps track of her daily thoughts, as does a supply of post-it notes for quick ideas. There are flashcards for tutoring, a water bottle adorned with a pug-maid sticker, and an enjoyable book in case she has a free moment. Her personalized "teacher’s survival kit" has everything from paper clips to Tums and Kleenex.
With school about to resume, Williams is also carrying an assortment of tools to get her classroom ready. There’s a tape measure, a variety of screwdrivers and a glue gun for making playful room decor. The theme of her classroom? Harry Potter, of course. An assortment of what she describes as “the teacher’s pen,” the Paper-Mate Flair, is also on hand in a variety of colors. She has a personalized stamp to mark the classroom’s library—“Read it, love it, return it"—and a Ziploc bag with colorful icons to label new books: a crown for fairy-tales, a microscope for science and a speech bubble for graphic novels. With her love of teaching and playful spirit apparent, it’s easy to see why learning with Williams would be a magical experience.