A Life Lived: Michelle Williams remembered as a caring teacher

Published 9:33 am Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Michelle Williams was well-acquainted with pain, having undergone four back surgeries. But, prior to suffering health problems Michelle had been an active young lady who had excelled in sports at Unaka High School and had went on to study at East Tennessee State University and become a teacher.

She had earned a B.S. degree in School Social Work and a Master’s degree in teaching. Michelle’s sister, Nyoka Holder, said she was a wonderful teacher with a big heart, who endeared herself to the students. “It was her love for children that inspired her to become a teacher,” said Nyoka.

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Michelle had previously taught at Unaka Elementary School and when she was forced to retire due to disability was teaching at Happy Valley Middle School.

“She was a very caring person. She would often bring some of the girls home with her, and one year she took her Honors Class at Happy Valley Middle School to Disneyworld in Orlando, Fla.,” said Nyoka. “She enjoyed doing field trips with the students and made learning an adventure.

“Michelle was a hands-on teacher. She was good with both elementary and middle grade students. When she taught the lower grades, she would get down in the floor with the students. She made her room a lot of fun, often using what they were studying as a theme for the decorations,” shared Nyoka.

Nyoka and her husband, Daniel, raised Michelle and her twin brother, Michael, after their mother died. “They were nine years old at the time, and they were more like my children. I couldn’t have done it without Daniel, but I loved it,” Nyoka said.

In high school, Michelle excelled in sports — softball, basketball, volleyball — if you could play it, Michelle did it or at least tried.

“She underwent her first back surgery when she was studying for her Master’s degree. From then on, she was in a lot of pain. However, she was a fighter and very determined,” said Nyoka.

She described her sister as a very giving person and good-hearted. “She would give her last dollar and the clothing off her back to someone in need,” Nyoka shared.

Michelle often shared her love for family by writing poems. “She wrote poems for Mother’s Day, for our birthdays, and holidays,” said Nyoka. A poem she wrote for her brother accompanies this article.

In addition to teaching, Michelle enjoyed her church family at Hunter United Methodist Church and was a “crafty” person. She especially enjoyed cooking and collecting recipes. At one time, she collected clowns.

Nyoka said many of Michelle’s former students and friends when they called at the funeral home commented on her “warm smile” and concern for others. One student wrote on Michelle’s “In Memoriam” page: “I’ll always remember practicing our ‘dancing moves’ for ’50s days at Unaka. I remember getting down and playing ‘horse’ and shooting baskets with her.”

Michelle Williams was only 53 years old when she died Oct. 10. Her life is a reminder that it’s not the number of years you live that counts, but’s it how you live the years that are given to you.