MATHEWS COUNTY, Va. (WAVY) — Congratulations, Teacher of the Year Jason Williams!

The Thomas Hunter Middle School teacher stepped up big to help Mathews County school staff make the switch to a hybrid learning model and is being recognized as one of WAVY’s Excellent Educators.

“A need arose, and I just was like ‘I’m here to help.'”

In December 2020, Mathews school leaders started planning to bring students back for in-person learning part-time for the spring months.

Hunter Middle Principal Laurel Byrd asked Williams to help set up the classrooms for asynchronous learning. This means teaching students at home and in class at the same time.

The goal was to have it as low-budget as possible.

Williams researched online for web cameras, tripods, USB cables and mic packs for teachers.

“That was a really big job. I have dumped over 50 hours into it so far, on top of my class.”

Williams is a full-time math teacher, now turned school IT consultant. After hours of searching, he put together a kit for teachers.

“I did my homework. I did my research. I looked at reviews after reviews and eventually, I created a whole kit for about $150 per teacher. Which is really cheap.”

The district purchased about 100 kits for teachers. Then Williams trained elementary, middle and high school teachers.

“We are a small town. Technology is hard for some people. It’s not commonplace, we don’t have a lot of fancy technologies here. So, throwing technology into every single classroom was tricky but we got it! We did it!”

And that’s not all, he helped create and sponsors the middle school STEMhawks program. The team was the only middle school team to place in the ITEEA Reach competition. They made a reach extender for a little girl with spina bifida.

“She is wheelchair-bound and needs help reaching high places. They used fishing line, PVC pipe and clothes pins to create this grabber for about $2.”

Now the STEMhawks are in a competition held by the Virginia Ship Repair Foundation. Students will create a new or improved part of a ship and then showcase the design.

Williams hopes to grow the program with grants, additional classes and staff.

“This program is brand new, but we are making some moves. We are covering some ground.”