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Teacher Recognition

“I wanted to help make the education system better, to enrich lives outside of school”: Q&A with Anthony Williams, EdD

By The Room 241 Team December 26, 2017

“We work for all people but specifically target individuals from low-income, minority backgrounds, or those that are exceptional learners to help bring equity of access to STEAM education.”

That’s the mission set forth by BEACON House, Inc., a non-profit organization based in Hagerstown, MD that seeks to bring STEAM education to both children and adults. It was founded just this year in 2017 by Anthony Williams, an Academic Intervention teacher at a public middle school—who also happens to be a current online student in Concordia’s EdD in Transformational Leadership program.

Needless to say, he’s a busy guy. We were fortunate to be able to ask him a few questions about his experience in our EdD program thus far and about BEACON House. Take a look!

How did you hear about Concordia?

My former co-worker did her MEd program online through Concordia University-Portland, so she told me about the EdD program. Concordia was very easy to work with for financial loans and grants, and the books were shipped to me—it was very convenient. All I had to worry about was the coursework.

Tell us about your experience in the EdD program—what makes it special and what do you feel you get out of it that you might not get elsewhere?

I love the classes and my instructors. In this program you really build a connection with people. The professors and other students want to know about your life, what you’re doing, and how they can help you. You build professional relationships outside of the coursework, and in fact, I think the relationships are stronger online than if you are in a face-to-face classroom. One professor was particularly encouraging and provided a lot of insight when I was working to get BEACON House set up.

I also love that most coursework builds week after week. What I learned really helped me understand and develop my own non-profit. We discussed how mission drives an organization, and how to have critical conversations. My non-profit became incorporated in January, and everything I’ve learned has been applicable to what I am doing. What is going on in my non-profit is often the substance for my discussion posts for class, and I get relevant feedback from my classmates.

What made you interested in the field of education?

I was raised in a family that placed a lot of importance on the concept of giving back and also on education. I had an exceptional 4th grade teacher, and I was inspired to write to that teacher years later to let them know the impact they made on me. I decided I wanted to do the same thing for future generations. First, I wanted to teach science. My two passions are giving back to the community and science/nature.

What inspired you to create BEACON House?

I realized there are big gaps in education; many kids don’t have parents who value education the way mine did. My parents taught me that knowledge is power, and I want to give that to other families. I wanted to help make the education system better, to enrich lives outside of school. Knowing that education is the key to knowledge, I wanted to extend the work I have been doing to impact kids’ learning and education, and even adults for that matter. I want to help others find their passion for something and develop that passion.

Give us a short summary of what BEACON House is and what it offers the community.

BEACON stands for ‘Building Equity in Access & Achievement through Community Outreach Networks. BEACON House aims to bring together community partners and government entities to increase access and achievement for children (age 3 and up) through adults in the areas of STEAM. We hope to level the playing field with equity and access—we want those starting at a lower economic level to know how and why they should achieve in STEAM career fields. There are fewer females and minorities represented in STEAM fields, and I want to increase representation from these groups.

A few examples of BEACON House programs include STEAM courses (after school and weekend classes, led by volunteers); STEAM Reboot (functional courses offered to adults); Free Family Fun Fridays (when we teach STEAM integrated lessons to parents and kids); and a partnership with Goodwill that aims to increase access for adults who are coming out of addiction or incarceration and re-entering the workforce.

What would you like to see as the future of BEACON House?

I would like to see this offered nationwide or globally to get kids and adults to think critically, problem solve, and collaborate around STEAM from a global perspective. I would like it to be a high-quality program that changes the world.

Is there anything you appreciate about Concordia’s Lutheran education values?

It’s a Lutheran school but it’s very progressive; faith is not just from one point of view and all people of all faiths are encouraged to express themselves. There’s an understanding that the public space should be secular, but also that everyone’s morals are with them wherever they go. It’s okay to have different morals. We should be open about this, be accepting of it, and be pro-active to agree on norms of operation from the beginning. It’s good to be open minded.

Congratulations to Anthony and his team—we wish him all the best! For more about the launch of BEACON House, check out this news article.

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