Willabell Williams knew she wanted to be a teacher by the time she was 6 years old.
The oldest of nine children, Williams mentored her younger siblings as a child – then went on to touch hundreds of lives as director of the Carver Center and a longtime teacher at Churchill Junior High, Lombard Middle School and Galesburg High School.
Now 86, Williams has been retired for 20 years but vividly recalls living in Galesburg for more than eight decades and remains interested in politics, education and race relations.
“I still think young, so I stay young,” Williams said.
She moved to Galesburg with her family at age 4 and graduated from Galesburg High School in 1939. She attended Brown’s Business College and worked as a housekeeper and secretary before working at the Carver Center, attending Knox College and becoming a history and civics teacher. She also served six years as a school board member for District 205.
After graduating from Knox, Williams turned down an office job at the college because she felt destined to be in the classroom.
“I didn’t want to work with papers. I wanted to work with kids,” she said.