He was a student when the school opened in 1999. Prior to working at the school, his son followed his path and currently is a sixth grader. When his previous job became a second-shift position, he sought a change that would be more conducive to being a parent.
That’s when he added another role to his Forsyth portfolio, becoming a paraprofessional.
“It was almost a calling to come here,” said Williams, who has worked at Forsyth for nearly four years. “I really felt like I wanted to make a difference in my community. Working directly with the community, I feel like I can achieve that.”
Naturally, Williams’ reach extends to several areas at Forsyth, which outperforms the local district. He also is an education technology coordinator, fixing Chromebooks and keeping inventory, and is the school’s athletic director.
DJ Williams and Annie Shoaf, right, a special education paraprofessional and girls basketball coach at Forsyth.
A sense of continuity and stability are some of the most appealing aspects of Forsyth to Williams in his experience as a student and now parent. Teachers he had as a student, Mary Black, Mary Ellen Kitko, and Marianne McMillan still work at the school. Now they are his co-workers and his son’s teachers.
“It feels like a family,” Williams said. “It feels almost like a privilege to go through it, and my kid goes to Forsyth Academy, he learns from my teachers, as well. It brings a real clarity.
That sense of belonging that made such an impact on Williams as a kid has extended more than 20 years later to his son’s experience. He is involved in extracurricular activities and interacts with his teachers after school at sporting events.
DJ Williams has worked at Forsyth for nearly four years and is a former student.
“He loves the relationships with his teachers,” Williams said. “Even after class, he goes to talk with them and spend time with them.”
The qualities that make Forsyth a great place to work overlap with fostering an environment that changes students’ lives. It begins with building relationships and continues with personalized instruction to meet students’ needs and strengths, powered by an adherence to Moral Focus virtues.
“DJ was a friendly, inquisitive, and respectful student,” said Lori Hill, a former Forsyth teacher who taught Williams and now is a director of school quality at National Heritage Academies (NHA). “He was always kind to everyone and worked hard. I see all of those same qualities in him as an adult and now staff member at Forsyth.”
Said Principal Christy Harnsberger: “He is a future teacher in the making. DJ is the definition of a FA Falcon. He embodies our culture and mission. He is an awesome pillar in our school."
Keep up the excellent work, Mr. Williams!
About Forsyth Academy
Forsyth Academy is a tuition-free, public charter school in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, serving students in kindergarten through eighth grade. It is part of the National Heritage Academies network, which includes 99 tuition-free, public charter schools serving more than 65,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade across nine states. For more information, visit nhaschools.com.