IDEA Teacher Spotlight: Paul Williams

Paul Williams is an AP United States History teacher at IDEA College Preparatory Weslaco.  We sat down to chat about his experience as an IDEA educator.  

What motivated you to apply to work at IDEA?

I was a substitute teacher for multiple school districts in the area, including IDEA Public Schools. When I began as a substitute at IDEA Weslaco, I fell in love with the students and staff. I just love IDEA’s mission that all children can go to and through college. 

I wish IDEA had been around when I was still in school, because my background is similar to many of the students we serve.  I grew up in a low-income neighborhood.  My dad only made it to third grade.  Because of where I came from, and because I suffered from two speech impediments, I faced a lot adversity.  My teachers doubted me.  I was told I would not make it past the 7th grade.

IDEA is just so different from the educational circumstances I knew growing up.  Not only does IDEA build up and support all students, they also provide so much guidance around how to get to, and be successful in, college.  I was clueless when it came to college!  I made a lot of mistakes. IDEA would have been a game changer for me growing up, and that is why I know I am in the right place. I want to make sure students don’t have to face as many challenges and barriers as I had to. 

You can apply to teach at IDEA, beginning October 9, by visiting

What do you love about working at IDEA?

My scholars. I love working with the students and I think they enjoy being in my class.  There’s a funny little tradition in my class.  I give this praise of recognition which my scholars call the “That's What I'm Talking About" Roar.  In class, there are no wrong answers, but you do have to own the answer you give. After a student responds to a question, I’ll ask the class “Did he/she own the answer?”  If the class gives the thumbs up, I give a loud, “That’s What I’m Taking About!” It has really stuck.  In fact, if I ever forget to say it, the students remind me what is owed! 

Aside from the students, IDEA is also just a great place to work, and because of IDEA’s growth, I will one day hopefully get to see an IDEA school open up in the neighborhood where I grew up.  I know IDEA is a place where I can grow personally and professionally.

How do you think your previous work experience and life experience has affected your ability to teach your students?

My previous work experiences in the military and in law enforcement taught me to adapt, adjust, and overcome obstacles.  Here at IDEA, I'm learning, making adjustments and moving up on IDEA’s GET (Guideposts to Excellent Teaching) Rubric—the tool IDEA employees use to measure performance.

In a previous job, I mentored prison inmates.  The experience was eye-opening and made me want to provide guidance to people earlier in their lives.  This context motivates me every day.  The decisions our students make today most definitely affect their future. 

Do you have any advice for new teachers looking to get into the profession or work with IDEA?

Baby steps—one thing at a time.  There is a lot to learn at IDEA.  For example, first I mastered establishing a quality class culture.  Now, I am focusing on excellence in my lesson planning.  My instructional coach has helped me every step of the way.  Plus, I have a really supportive staff at my campus.  We are a team at IDEA-- veteran teachers give context, advice, a listening ear, and new teachers are open, honest and ready to learn. 

My other piece of advice for career-changers like myself, is to become a substitute teacher first.  Try out several school districts.  See which school network fits your needs.  IDEA was the right fit for me. 

You can apply to teach at IDEA, beginning October 9, by visiting

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