“I’m a big fan of Roald Dahl books; they have a beautiful blend of curiosity, exuberance, creativity, love, kindness, irreverence, and absurdity. My wife is also a teacher (first grade in San Rafael) and I got into education when I realized that everything I loved about her was connected to her being an excellent kindergarten teacher.”
For our October Teacher Spotlight, we interviewed Nick Williams.
What grade(s) are you currently teaching?
I teach 9th grade Biology, Physics, and Engineering.
What do you enjoy most about teaching science?
I love teaching. I get to help people become their best selves and solve problems every day. The problems are always different and interesting; sometimes, I get to play with academic problems, sometimes practical engineering problems, and a lot of times, interpersonal or human engagement problems.
What do you enjoy the least?
The great part of living and teaching as part of a community is knowing that we’re there to support one another, but the challenging part is that I feel connected to every member of our community, so when something sad or tragic happens to a member of our larger San Marin community, it hits me hard.
What’s your favorite element?
Neon – stable, bright, luminescent, joyful, energetic, common enough to be known but rare enough to feel special.
What do you love most about working at San Marin?
I love our campus, my coworkers, the freedom and encouragement to pursue cool ideas in teaching, and that our students have the opportunities to (and do) pursue so many great things.
Do you remember your first class? What was it like?
Learning? I went to kindergarten and first grade in Knutsford, England. We raised chicks; one of them was named Fluffy. Once a member of the England National Football team came to my primary school – that was very exciting.
Teaching? I taught Earth Science and Biology for my first 6 years at San Marin. The 200 building was being renovated when I started teaching, so we taught in portables in the parking lot next to the science building for the first semester. There was a portable for the science prep room. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out why there were so many rocks in there and what I was supposed to do with them.
What’s your most memorable teaching moment?
Winning the Milken in 2015 was pretty sweet. In terms of actually teaching, I’m fired up any time a student has a really stupid, creative idea and I’m able to tell them why it’s a bad idea and then encourage them and help them pull it off. (and the real answer, which might not be newsletter appropriate: Once, a student came back to see me the day before graduation to let me know that she’d stopped cutting herself because of a conversation we’d had in 9th grade and every time she thought about doing it, she’d think of me and then not hurt herself, which was pretty meaningful to me.)
What was your favorite subject in High School?
Calculus – I love math and calc made so much sense (especially after pre-calc…).
What was your least favorite subject in High School?
History. Still is. (Sorry Watson).
What’s your favorite thing to do outside of San Marin?
I live four blocks away from school and my kids’ preschools, daycares, and elementary schools are on San Marin/Sutro, so I rarely leave San Marin, but I love running. I feel so lucky that we are able to live in a place with such easy access to beautiful open space and a trail system that goes for miles. My favorite trail in town is Big Trees, but I’m also very happy in Indian Valley, O’Hair, Stafford Lake, Burdell, or Olompali. I used to play Ultimate frisbee for UC Davis, but my joints and muscles have a tough time with the quick changes of direction now. I also love to spend time at the beach and on the water.
What’s one weird or interesting fact that people might not know about you?
In early January every year, a few friends and I run the Novato Rim Run, which is the perimeter of Novato on trails as much as possible (around 34 miles).