Kent School District director of multilingual education dies of cancer

Nina ‘Will’ Williams, 56, expanded dual language and English language learning programs

Nina “Will” Williams. COURTESY PHOTO, Kent School District

Nina “Will” Williams. COURTESY PHOTO, Kent School District

Nina “Will” Williams, who helped develop and expand the Kent School District’s dual language program, died May 10 after a short battle with colon cancer.

Williams, 56, of Kent, worked since 2014 as the district’s director of multilingual education. She helped expand the dual language program from Carriage Crest and Scenic Hill elementary schools to Kent and Neely-O’Brien elementary schools and to Mill Creek Middle School.

Williams was “a fierce and unwavering advocate for students,” according to a Kent School District statement. “Her love for reaching traditionally marginalized students and families shined through in all she did.”

Williams constantly worked toward equity for nearly 6,000 of the district’s culturally and linguistically diverse students and their families, making a multigenerational impact.

To honor Williams, the district’s dual language program will now be known as the Nina “Will” Williams dual language program.

“Will was a loving and compassionate friend and a hard-working and deeply knowledgeable professional who has positively changed students’ lives through the dual language and English language learning programs,” according to the district. “She developed personal relationships with those she worked with across the system, instilling confidence and making people feel supported and respected. She willingly stepped into uncomfortable spaces to ensure the best interest of the English language learning and dual language programs and the students these programs serve. She challenged the status quo with humor and empathy.”

In Kent, dual language students attain literacy instruction in both Spanish and English beginning in kindergarten. This simultaneous biliteracy structure of the program initiated by Williams was crucial to providing an equitable education for the students, according to the district. In addition, the biliteracy framework has launched students on the road to becoming bilingual, biliterate and multicultural.

Williams began her career as a health and fitness teacher in the Puyallup School District where she taught for over 17 years. Moving from the classroom, Williams became a technology coach position in the Puyallup district for several years before transitioning into leadership as the director of English language learning and student services for the Tukwila School District prior to taking the Kent job.

This fall the Kent School District will invite the family of Williams, former students, colleagues and friends to a ceremony at Scenic Hill Elementary School, where her work in the district began, to unveil a plaque officially renaming the program.

District staff members are working with the Kent Schools Foundation to establish a multilingual college scholarship fund. This annual scholarship will provide $1,000 to a district multilingual student to go to college to pursue any degree. Donations can be made at kentschoolsfoundation.org/donate.

Survivors include her wife Carla Curfman; mother Janet Williams; sister Teresa Fagan and niece Samantha Fagan, according to her obituary.

In 2013, she married the love of her life and soulmate Carla Curfman. Together they enjoyed spending time with friends and family and loved to travel to Hawaii, Portland and Arizona. Her most treasured time was spent with her niece Samantha where they enjoyed riding horses, skiing, playing silly games, watching movies and just being together.

“Nina will always be remembered for her cheerful smile, quick wit, and her love for her family and many friends who miss her dearly,” according to the obituary.


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