Meet A.T. McWilliams, a Dynamic Learning Project (DLP) program lead for Google for Education. DLP helps high-need schools build and manage instructional technology coaching programs.
December 13, 2018
What inspired you to join Teach For America?
I joined Teach for America because I wanted to help people who look like me enjoy the full breadth of opportunity in this country. More importantly, I wanted to spend time learning firsthand what it means to immerse yourself in a community and help students take ownership of their learning while discovering their passions. As a member of the New York corps, I taught first grade in Brownsville, Brooklyn—the borough’s most underserved neighborhood.
Favorite memory from the classroom?
One day after school, I approached a student about his recent homework. While he excelled in math—representing his work with brilliant precision—he often struggled with writing assignments. But when we asked him to draw alongside his text responses, he transformed simple homework into works of art. “You’re an artist,” I said to him with a smile. He responded, “What’s that?” I went on to explain how he could study art in college and draw and paint every day. His expression shifted from curiosity to that of someone who’d learned something new about himself. Something fundamental. The more he embraced art, the more his reading and writing improved, and the more confident he became in his learning.
How did your experience in the corps impact your career pathway?
During my last year in the classroom, I had the opportunity to coach new teachers on classroom management and phonics instruction. More importantly, I was coached every day and learned from an expert on how to be an effective teacher and how to develop through 1:1 mentorship and training.
Now, I’ve taken my experiential knowledge and used it to develop a new coaching model and tools to help support coaches. I currently work on the Google for Education team as a program lead for the Dynamic Learning Project (DLP). The DLP helps high-need schools build and manage instructional technology coaching programs. As the coaching lead, I help to build and manage programming, training, and tools for 100 technology coaches serving 3,000+ teachers and 60,000+ students.
“I consistently rely on the TFA community when looking for collaborators and thought partners on all projects directed at increasing equity. This is the strongest network I’ve ever encountered of bright people committed to helping communities grow.”
What skills from the classroom have you been able to translate to your current role?
My skills in data analysis, which I developed analyzing student achievement data, and my skills in time and project management have been crucial to success in my current role. Teaching is the best way to learn how to efficiently manage disparate tasks, and cater to the needs of individual stakeholders—students, parents, families—through real-time decision making.
What do you appreciate about the TFA community?
I consistently rely on the TFA community when looking for collaborators and thought partners on all projects directed at increasing equity. This is the strongest network I’ve ever encountered of bright people committed to helping communities grow.
One piece of advice you have for our incoming corps of teachers?
Capture every moment while it’s right in front of you.
Leaving the classroom was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Even though my days there proved more challenging and heart-wrenching that my jobs to follow, few things have been as powerful and joyful. Hold on to your memories while you have them. Write things down. Keep your students’ notes. Build relationships with their families so you can remain in their lives. Be present in this experience and hold on to it.