Even from a young age, Nicole Williams believes it was her calling to be in the classroom.

“I always knew I would be a teacher,” she said. “I’ve always had a love for children and teaching. I would come home from elementary school to my brother, who is two years younger than me, and make him play school.”

It’s clear residents of the Wood River Valley agree she’s in the right place: Williams, a longtime resident of the Wood River Valley and a seventh-year teacher at the Big Wood School in Ketchum, has been voted winner of the 2022 Best of The Valley Best Teacher Award by readers of the Idaho Mountain Express.

“I’m really honored and humbled,” she said. “The idea that I get to spend so much of these young children’s lives with them is an honor. I love children, I love the whole family unit, and just that I am so involved in their lives.”

Williams joined the Big Wood School staff in 2015 and led the class for two-year-old students before moving up to the three-year-olds. She received her bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies and Early Childhood Education from Cal State Northridge.

Williams said her many years of dedication to her discipline has given her a unique perspective on education. She believes that the Blaine County School District’s approval of free preschool for all children is a step in the right direction for education in the state of Idaho. “I’m really proud of Blaine County for passing free early childhood education for all,” she said. “Blaine County is a trailblazer in that regard. It is so important to get kids in the classroom and provide early intervention for any special needs; the earlier we can find that out the better.”

Her dedication to early childhood education does not stop when the school year ends. She also works as the summer camp director at the Big Wood School from June through August. “I run all aspects of the camp,” she said. “We have about 100 kids, with nine different classes. I do all the programming, field trips, scheduling, hiring; and I enjoy that just as much.”

Even with hard work and passion for early childhood education, she believes it all is made possible by her coworkers and family at the Big Wood School.

“I have never worked at a school that was so much like a true family,” Williams said. “They’re everything to me outside of my regular family. We don’t just come here and play the role. It’s the real deal.”

Her love and respect for her coworkers is mutual, as Big Wood School Director and Williams’ mentor, Kim Piggins, told the Express.

“Miss Nicole is such an asset to our school,” Piggins said. “She leads with patience and passion. It is amazing to see her students grow under her love and care.” 

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