Service Has Always Been Williams’ Top Priority


Paula Williams, the new principal of Moorefield Station Elementary, learned about the importance of customer service during her first career.

Williams spent a decade working for insurance giant USAA after graduating from Longwood University.

Williams was in her third year as a history major at Longwood when she first thought she would like to teach. Getting a teaching degree would have extended her college career beyond four years, so Williams decided to finish her degree and enter the workforce.

She said recently that USAA prepared her well for her career in education.

As a claims representative, Williams said she learned the art of listening and providing great member service when people faced a stressful situation. “They’re concerned about their car. They’re concerned about their insurance premiums. I had to be able to diffuse a situation that could be potentially unsettling. Finding the resources to support people.

“Letting people know you were going to take care of them, and actually doing that.

“It’s a part of what I did then. It’s a part of what I do now. What’s more important to a person than their child?”

Williams said she seeks to communicate and build trust with parents before a stressful situation arises. With a relationship established, the parent knows they will be listened to and heard. “I know we’re going to find a solution that’s best for my child. I know I can trust this school community with what is most important to me, my child and their education.”

Williams’ career switch came when USAA moved her office from Norfolk. She had the option to transfer to San Antonio or Colorado. Williams didn’t want to make the move because she had a small child and her husband enjoyed an established career. She obtained a master’s degree in education from Marymount University and worked as an English as a second language instructor at Northern Virginia Community College before becoming a teacher at her oldest son’s school. (Williams had been an involved parent and the principal offered her a job.)

Advancing to administration, Williams served six years as an assistant principal, most recently at Alvey Elementary in Prince William County, before coming to Moorefield Station. She succeeds Karen Roche, Moorefield Station’s inaugural principal, who retired.

Williams has several immediate priorities as she assumes the principal’s role. Several involve rebuilding the school community after months of distance and hybrid learning.

“First, I’m focused on getting our staff reacclimated. We’ve been apart too; some of them were distance learning, some of them were hybrid. They have a new principal. We’re first building ourselves as a staff community.” To accomplish this, Williams has been meeting with staff and has set up several staff-building activities.

The new principal also has scheduled three sessions for the community to meet her at the school on August 2 as well as virtual opportunities to get acquainted. She will have a “Popsicles on the Playground” event to meet kindergartners on August 16.

Williams looks forward to getting students reacclimated to in-person instruction. “We know we’re going to have to explicitly instruct our students on our traditions and our expectations.” One thing she is excited about in the coming year is a focus on personalized learning. “That’s going to be a powerful tool for our student achievement.”

Right before the pandemic, Moorefield Station had begun work on a system that would divide students into nine houses based on attributes associated with the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS). Through this system, students can earn points for their house by demonstrating attributes that should be  embraced across the school community. “We’re focusing on building community among ourselves.”

Williams also views her work through the lens of being a mother. “I want my students to receive the great education that my children have received. What I’ve said consistently through my time as a teacher and as an administrator is ‘If I don’t want it for my child, I don’t want it for my students. And if I want it for my child, I want it for my students.’ To me it’s very simple. That guides everything I do.”

Williams has been married for 25 years and is the proud mom of a rising senior at Virginia Tech and a rising senior at Battlefield High School. (Her youngest son recently committed to playing football at Duke.)





Published July 29, 2021