Shinnell Williams – inspiring rural Clarendon students to embrace math
Shinnell Williams always found that mathematics was something she has never had to ‘study’. A graduate of Glenmuir High School and Clarendon College, Williams says: “I think I’m gifted with math. Even in high school when I did CAPE, I would usually teach math to my other classmates on every topic, and I would keep study groups for my friends and anybody who was struggling with it.”
Fast-forward a decade and Shinnell is a final-year student at Mico University College, specialising in her favourite subject – mathematics. Upon receiving her degree, she will be qualified to teach the subject at CSEC and CAPE levels.
In the summer break, Williams works in the annual summer employment programme run by Cari-Med Foundation. She hasn’t been able to do so since the programme has been shelved for the second consecutive year because of COVID-19 restrictions. However, the enterprising 25-year-old soon came up with a very creative solution. She approached the company with a proposal to offer math classes to students in Brandon Hill, Clarendon, who were due to sit CSEC as well as younger students who needed help. In return, the company would give her a stipend similar to what she would have earned in the summer-employment programme.
“We were very impressed,” said Lorraine Jones, corporate communications manager at Cari-Med. “She (Williams) had already contacted Brandon Hill Primary to make arrangements for space and presented us with a detailed syllabus and schedule for the various age groups. In the end, the only things we asked for were confirmation that the classes would adhere to the COVID- protocols and that she submit a weekly attendance register.”
Williams said she was overjoyed to receive the financial support. She wanted to address what she saw as a serious issue affecting students in the rural Clarendon community due to the disruption of face-to-face classes. “Many of the students have not been going to online classes either because of lack of service, or they don’t have the money to buy a device. When I started the classes I thought I would be mainly doing revision. Instead, I ended up teaching the topics from scratch. So overall, the online learning has not been a good experience for them,” she said.
After a month of classes, with an average class size of eight students per grade level, Williams is pleased with the results. “The classes have been going well. I just finished with the fifth-formers and got good reports about the CSEC paper. With the grade seven and eight students – they got a test last week and most of them scored from 70s to 80s, and I am currently marking grades nine and 10, and all of them got 90s so far.”
Williams said that many find mathematics intimidating, but the secret is to help people relate it to everyday situations. She credits her tutors at Mico University College for promoting this practical approach to mathematics teaching and learning and is appreciative of their efforts to support their students’ online learning.
“Online classes were tedious, and especially because with maths, you need to see it. You need to see the formulae on the board, and it is a tactile subject, so it was a bit difficult, but with good studying and extra hours from our tutors, we were able to do well. Online learning can affect you if you’re not focused, but you have to be focused to achieve what you want.”
Williams said that Glen Christian, chairman of Cari-Med Group and native of Brandon Hill, is one of her role models. “He has inspired me a lot,” she said. “Even with this initiative, I was inspired by the fact that he is always giving back to Brandon Hill.”
She gives credit for her success to her mother, Carmeleta Miller, someone she admires greatly. “She has done so much for me to reach where I am today,” Williams said. “She has put her life on hold for every one of her children – me, my sister, and my brother. She is a single parent, and she has it very hard, and I always try my best to make her proud in whatever I do.”