Featured Employee: Julie McWilliams

Featured Employee: Julie McWilliams
Posted on 05/17/2022
Julie McWilliams
LKSD has amazing individuals helping enrich the lives of youth around the YK Delta.  We’ll be highlighting staff throughout the year so our communities can learn the commitment and diverse skills our staff share with our students every day. Follow along to learn more about our staff and educators.

Featuring: Julie McWilliams

Julie McWilliams and the Festival of the Arts exhibit

What is your background? Where did you grow up?
I grew up on a farm in Oregon and attended a small school. For college, I attended University of Oregon and graduated with a Community Health Education degree. I first worked for WIC and did a lot of nutrition counseling. Then I met my future husband and went back to school for my teaching certification.

Eventually as a teacher, I was doing these great activities and realized how little I knew about art, so I started taking art classes. I've eased into the arts and have become a huge arts proponent since then. I’m currently getting a masters in arts education since I learned how important they are for students to communicate and process. 

How long have you been working with LKSD?
This is my 32nd year. Some were half years to raise my children.

What is the best part about working with LKSD students?
They have a great sense of humor and live “in the moment.” They are creative and draw from their rich history.

What inspired you to work in education?
Our future relies on healthy, high functioning communities and the way to navigate a changing world is to work with young people. 

What’s a memorable moment from your work in LKSD that made you a better educator? 
There are so many. One in particular took place over the course of a year in 2010. A grant-funded art enhancement program brought a large number of artist-in-school residencies, working with teachers and students. Students learned how to make puppets, write a storyline, and perform. The culminating experience was a performance in Bethel that was simply amazing. I cannot begin to quantify the types and amount of learning. It’s the kind of learning that cannot be quantified on any exam, but I know the students and teachers that participated were forever changed in a positive way.

What’s something surprising about your job?
People ask how I have stayed for so long and I can honestly say that my job has morphed many times over the years. I am never bored.

How is your school unique from other schools and student bodies?
I’m a distance teacher so I work with students in the villages teaching visual arts. I work with JH and HS students. 

Tell us a story about your approach to education
My approach is to connect with the students and try to figure out where they’re at. Every kid has a different story and skills, so I try to figure out the best way the students that are in front of me are going to learn. It’s different with every group of kids. 
Over the years, I’ve noticed that education and our world has changed so much. When I first came to the district, [I realized] I can learn more from my students than I could ever teach them. I’ve tried to take that approach in every class. I’m the guest here. 

What keeps you coming back year after year?
I’m retiring this year, and it’s a bittersweet. What kept me coming back were the students and teachers. I don’t claim to know everything about the region or the district, but I love working with the incoming teachers and trying to help them transition from where they come from to teaching in LKSD. I also love working with the students - I feel like I learn more than they do sometimes! 

I appreciate that LKSD provides teachers with training and professional development so we can continue to grow and become better teachers. I always felt like, when I have an idea, I can go to the administration and say “what do you think about this.” I don't think they have ever said no, they always try to make it work. LKSD is truly here for the kids. 

When I told Kimberly I was planning to retire, I made sure she knew I’m not leaving. Bethel is my home. I feel like I grew up and matured here. And I plan to stay. 

Julie is the head of Arts Integration and district-wide distance delivery for the arts.

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