by DANNY WADE | Senior Editor
After much thought and planning, a Humboldt educator has been memorialized by having a library named in her honor. The late Ann Simmons Williams, who was principal of East End Elementary School for many years, now has the school library named in her honor—Ann S. Williams Library and Learning Center.
On Saturday, May 6, a group of family, friends and educators gathered in the library at East Elementary for an unveiling ceremony. Williams’ daughter, Keli Gooch, who is following in her mom’s footsteps as an educator, coordinated the event. Gooch had the plaque made, which will be mounted on the wall beside the library entrance door for everyone to see.
After the Humboldt Board of Education unanimously approved the dedication plan, Gooch and others went to work to start a fund in Williams’ honor to provide upgrades to the library that will assist East’s young scholars. Some items on the wish list include adding more graphic novels, STEM activities and new shelving. This special fund has been set up with Humboldt City Schools for those who may wish to make a donation. People have already made donations into the fund to honor Williams and create better learning opportunities for the students. Gooch said donations may be made at the Board of Education Central Office.
The dedication program last Saturday, very fittingly, included several educators. Dr. Janice Epperson, superintendent of Humboldt City Schools, opened the celebration. Dr. Epperson said it was very fitting to dedicate the East Elementary library in Williams’ honor. She spoke about the pride Williams had for education in Humboldt City Schools.
HCS’s Ginny Hatch was next on the program. Hatch serves as the school system’s nutrition director. Hatch had fond memories of Williams. Hatch said when she came to Humboldt City Schools in 2005, she and Williams would come in early and had some wonderful talks. These morning chats soon veered from education to fashion. She said those who knew “Ms. Ann” knew she loved fashion and was always looking for a bargain, which brought laughter from the crowd.
East librarian, Melissa Dittmer-Bennett offered a poem reading during the dedication ceremony. Bennett said she was not from Humboldt but quickly came to love Humboldt, the school and the kids. She said it is an amazing privilege to be librarian of the Ann S. Williams Library and Literacy Center.
East Elementary Principal Debbie Sheehan talked about Williams and short time they worked together with Humboldt City Schools. Sheehan said their conversations were mostly about family and education, with some fashion thrown in as well. Sheehan said while Williams is not longer here, with the dedication, she will always be here
Jozelda Porter, director of professional development for Humboldt City Schools, and is also Williams’ sister, offered the closing remarks. Porter thanked everyone to attending the joyous occasion and honoring her sister. She said as a teacher, our main goal is to change one student’s life—Williams changed so many lives.
Guests enjoyed light refreshments throughout the event. As the guests chatted amongst themselves, it seemed they all had a favorite memory or memories of Ms. Ann, as she was affectionately known by those who love her.
Daughter Keli also thanked everyone for attending and said she is so excited to have her mother’s legacy live on and on.
Williams was an iconic figure for Humboldt education. She began working as an elementary teacher for Humboldt City Schools in 1969. She earned her first Masters Degree in Special Education from Memphis State University in 1973. Williams served as principal of East End Elementary for 20 years. While principal, Williams led East End to be proclaimed as one of the top 10 schools in Tennessee. She earned her Masters Degree in Administration and Supervision in 1985. In 2009, Williams accepted the position of assistant superintendent of Humboldt City Schools.
She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2016 and passed away peacefully on November 27, 2022.
This short biography is only a snapshot of her life. Over the course of her career, Williams touched thousands of children’s lives and the lives of hundreds of teachers and school staff. Parents loved Williams for being stern while being compassionate. The students loved her, and respected and obeyed when she spoke.
Williams was dedicated to Humboldt. Now, Humboldt is dedicating back by having the library of her school being named in her honor, the Ann S. Williams Library and Literacy Center.