WP: Talking less, listening more: TED Talk inspires Va. Teacher of the Year

A TED Talk shaped Michelle Cottrell-Williams’ perspective as a teacher.

The talk, led by scholar Brene Brown, delved into how vulnerability and shame influence people’s connections with one another, Cottrell-Williams recalled.

The 35-year-old teacher took the lesson to heart and, since then, has made it a point to talk less and listen more to her students, to let them be the guides for their own learning.

“I learned how important empathy is,” she said.

Cottrell-Williams, a social studies teacher at Wakefield High School in Arlington County, was named Virginia Teacher of the Year on Monday. She was selected from among educators representing eight regions across the state.

She said advocating for students of color and those who learn English as a second language is one of her priorities. That’s important, she said, because public schools don’t do enough for those students.

Chris Willmore, Wakefield’s principal, said Cottrell-Williams challenges her students and encourages them to consider different perspectives.

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