2016 Silver Circle winner Theresa Williams

Theresa Williams

“I try to teach my students to be lifelong learners,” says Theresa Williams.

Since 1966, the Silver Circle Award has been presented to some of UIC’s best teachers. Winners, who are honored at their college commencements, receive $500 and their names join a long list of distinguished colleagues. But what makes the award especially meaningful is its selection committee: the graduating seniors.

Theresa Williams’ classroom and office are all within a few steps of each other, as are her dining room, kitchen and bathroom.

Since 2008, the nursing instructor has taught research and leadership courses through UIC Extended Campus from her home in Port Richey, Florida. Disabled due to chronic pain, Williams has never led a course from a classroom. But that hasn’t stopped her from being a valued educator.

“I try to teach my students to be lifelong learners,” Williams said. “It’s such an honor to teach them.”

Williams envisioned being a nurse in the fifth grade. Her father taught her that the chronic pain she was experiencing would be managed better if she used her head instead of her body. After receiving a bachelor’s in nursing from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in 1971, she fulfilled her dream of becoming a registered nurse.

While her specialty was in pediatrics, Williams has performed in numerous other nursing capacities. Having worked primarily in hospital settings, she became injured on the job and searched for other ways to use her nursing experience.

Heeding what she tells her students about always learning, Williams has completed three master’s degrees and is working toward a Ph.D. One master’s was in technology and learning, while another was in information technology.

“Even though I’m not with my students, I’m constantly in their head while I’m online,” she said. “Our online nursing program provides students the opportunity to successfully manage their education, career and personal life.”

Students are required to write a reflective blog as part of Williams’ course assignments, telling her how they have changed over the eight-week period of study.

“I push every one of them because I want them to be the best they can be,” she said.

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