It’s not unusual to see a mother and a daughter in the same classroom at school. But it is unusual when the mother and the daughter are both teachers for the same grade level. This year at Diboll Elementary Alice McWilliams and her daughter Tiffany Nash are both teaching kindergarten. As far as anyone can determine, this is the first time for the situation to ever occur in Diboll schools.
McWilliams is in her 21st year of teaching, and Nash is entering her eighth year. Both women have taught kindergarten before, but never at the same time. McWilliams has previously taught first grade, fourth grade, and pre-K through first grade music. Nash’s previous assignments include pre-K3 and pre-K4.
“I’m the oldest one on our entire team,” McWilliams said. “It’s been beneficial to have not only Tiffany but also other young people to provide new ideas. It helps me to step back and look at my teaching as well as teaching in general in a different light. It’s also easy to bounce ideas off Tiffany without worrying about what she might think.”
McWilliams also said that her daughter’s experience in the pre-K classroom helps her to know what the kindergartners need or can do. Both women said they feel their relationship allows them to be comfortable in discussing concerns.
Nash said she benefits from her mother’s years of experience.
“I’ve been away from kindergarten for a few years,” she said. “But Mom has been doing it more recently, so she can help me. Because of her experience, she doesn’t just talk the talk, but walks the walk. And besides the teaching, she makes lunch for me each day!”
Both women graduated from Diboll High School and Stephen F. Austin State University. They never planned to teach the same grade, but things just fell into place. They considered the possibility that their relationship might present problems, but so far everything has gone well. They stress they have a good team of teachers and administrators with whom to work.
“The main problem has been that we get to talking about so many things we want to do that time just gets away,” Nash said, with McWilliams finishing, “Sometimes we don’t leave school until late because we get carried away.”
McWilliams explained that she was a stay-at-home mom for several years after high school and really never thought much about college. But her husband’s sisters were in education, and listening to them talk about it stirred her interest. She had also been involved in various aspects of children’s ministry at church, so at the age of 25 she started college.
Nash had also worked with kids at church. She was in fourth grade when her mother started teaching, so while she was waiting to go home from school each day, she would play with her mom’s “teacher stuff.” She said that she simply grew up planning to be a teacher.
“One of the things that impacts you is when you have kids that are a challenge, but you see them later and they remember you,” McWilliams said. “Especially from my music classes, some will tell me they remember their parts from past performances when they graduate.”
A notable experience for Nash is getting to teach in her hometown.
“I’m now teaching the children of friends that I went to school with,” she said.
Both women mentioned Diboll teachers as people who had influenced them.
“Martha Jenkins was my mentor when I started,” McWilliams said. “She encouraged me to be a teacher, and she taught me by the way she did things.”
Nash singled out her mother first of all because of how she made her love teaching.
“But another influence was Patty Campbell,” she said. “I taught with her in pre-K3 for two years, and she was the perfect example. She always taught bell to bell and gave absolutely 100 percent to teaching.”
McWilliams provided a summation for the pair’s situation.
“Tiffany has a lot of knowledge. I have some wisdom and experience. Putting that all together benefits everyone involved,” she said.