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‘65 years old and not done yet,’ former marketing professional earns master’s in special education to work with children

Darlene Williams, '20
Darlene Williams, ’20

When Darlene Williams began pursuing her master’s degree in special education at Georgia Southern University, she had not attended college in more than 37 years.

Following a 30-year career in sales and marketing, Williams decided to chase a new dream.

“I started substitute teaching in October 2013, and one of my first assignments was in a high school special education classroom,” she said. “That is all it took. I thought to myself, ‘this is where I am supposed to be.’”

After earning a bachelor’s in business administration from the University of Buffalo in 1981, Williams initially thought she would one day make the transition from her business career to become a math teacher.

“I never thought I’d teach special education at all,” she said. “Divine intervention is all I can say.”

By 2015, Williams was teaching in a special education classroom in an elementary school in metro Atlanta. Working with students who have moderate to severe disabilities, Williams wanted to pursue further opportunities to grow as a teacher.

“I never wanted to invest in a master’s degree before because I didn’t have a reason to,” said Williams. “I found my reason. My students were my reason.”

The Georgia Southern College of Education offers a fully online advanced teaching program in special education that allowed Williams to continue to work while also enriching her practice and knowledge of students with disabilities.

“It was a challenge at times,” she said. “I had to catch up with this new generation. I am tech savvy, but so much has changed since I was last in college.”

Williams completed her course work in July and will walk across the stage at Paulson Stadium on the Statesboro Campus on December 17. 

“My granddaughter, Ariana, who is currently living in New York, encouraged me to walk at graduation so I decided to do it,” said Williams. “Though Ariana cannot attend, I will have the support of my daughter, son, two grandsons, brother and brother-in-law and my sweetie.”

“I am 65 years old, and I am not done yet,” she added. “If that inspires others to know they can do it, then I am happy to be that inspiration for them.”

Williams says the plans for the future are to keep working and possibly pursue a doctorate.

“I don’t want to retire,” she said. “I may eventually have to move out of the classroom, but I will still work. I want to help students with disabilities get ready for life, and I will put all my energy into doing that the best that I can.”


Posted in Alumni Highlights, Student Highlights

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