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My Economy

The teacher trying to make a difference

Bennett Purser Jun 26, 2019
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Trophies won by the Ogden High School cheer team
Kristie Williamson

Over the past two years, a swell of teachers demanded changes in their jobs. From West Virginia to California, thousands of teachers have walked out of their classrooms and negotiated better pay and resources.

Nestled near the Wasatch Mountains in Utah, the Ogden City School District recently affirmed a pay hike for its teachers.

Kristie Williamson, a teacher and cheer coach at Ogden High School, has worked to transform the cheer team and motivate the students who struggle in class. It isn’t always easy to inspire her students but, for her, teaching the hard lessons is what makes the job worth it.

Kristie Williamson on the football field at Ogden High School.

My name is Kristie Williamson. I am a teacher and cheer coach at Ogden High School in Ogden, Utah. The population at Ogden High School is very diverse. We have kids that come from inner-city Ogden, a lot of newcomers from different countries. And then I have a lot of wealthier parents who are doctors here. They’re all blended in and it makes for, I think fun, and interesting teaching.

When I started the team there were kids who weren’t getting good grades, they were kind of being troublemakers in class. I had to set my standards pretty high and I had to stick with those. But I try really hard to like build relationships with those kids and just try to get down to, like: ‘Why are you doing this, what is your plan, what are you going to do after school?’ Either way, if you want to have a job and keep a job, you have to learn how to be on time and to commit to something, or be there when you say you’re going to be there.

At the end of this year I had a student who I walked to class every single class period. Nothing that we did or said to him was motivating him. And I made a deal with him: ‘If you go, then I won’t walk with you. But as soon as you stop, I’m going to be your walking buddy.’ He hated it, because the kids were like ‘Oh, man, Coach Kristie’s walking him to class, rough life.’

But he went to class, and the teachers are like: ‘Yeah, he’s great once he’s here, but he was never here before.’ So it is a constant struggle, getting them to understand that. But, to me, those things make teaching worth it.

I’m doing myself a big favor and I’m taking off the month of July. You know, I’m just going to hang out with my toddler, who I feel like I never see, go to the pool, just try to relax and decompress so that I don’t burn myself out. The teachers here are extremely selfless. They don’t do it because it’s a paying job where you get the summers off. We do it because we love it and we want to make a difference.

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