2015 California Honoree Nick WilliamsMilken Family Foundation National Educator Award winner for 2015.
San Marin High School
Novato Unified School District
It is probably safe to assume that writing science rap songs and listing yourself as an “accomplished science-themed rapper” is not a typical sight in an educator’s resume, but San Marin High School science teacher Nick Williams is clearly not your typical teacher.
At the California Science Teachers Association Conference in 2011, Williams presented on a topic in which he’s well-versed: “Hip hop in the science classroom.” He goes to great lengths to engage his students and get them to learn. He helps each of them build websites on which to post their finished science work.
The school’s exhibition nights are another creative and inspired way that Williams gets his students involved. He regularly invites engineers, scientists, professors, and community members to give feedback to students on the projects they’ve built. These imaginative projects have included passive solar houses, alternative-energy model race cars, musical instruments, and robot art shows. He also finds and pairs adult mentors with his students.
Williams is an AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) teacher and mentors 30 students. He's known for being able to work with both extremely gifted students and those who struggle due to social, emotional or extreme home situations. This year, all of his AVID students applied to college, were accepted, and enrolled.
As chair of the science and engineering department, Williams is skilled at navigating the critical nuts and bolts of day-to-day operation. He helped develop the STEM Marin program, which quickly expanded from 60 to 150 students. Soon thereafter, 120 more wanted to participate.
His curriculum includes project-based learning, technology, service, and individual learning plans. He also created a ninth-grade earth science course and courses in STEM Engineering and conceptual physics. He led his science department of 7-10 teachers in the implementation of Common Core and Next Generation Science Standards.
When the school had difficulty in finding qualified math teachers, he stepped up to teach a lower-level math class and even attended additional training to prepare for it.Williams is a graduate of the University of California, Davis. He earned a B.S. in evolution and ecology in 2005 and an M.A. in education in 2008.