Lisa Williams is passionate about using the power of art and storytelling to influence, educate, and transform people’s lives. It All Matters is the expression of her desire to bring awareness to the emotional and spiritual poverty of children, due to lack of the most basic interaction and nurturing. Lisa spends her days as a Kindergarten Title I Teacher, and some nights, you can find her singing with the band, Linden Street. (www.lindenstreetband.com) Lisa and her husband, Jim Williams enjoy delightful relationships with their three adult children Jennifer, Morgan, and David. They have enjoyed watching their family grow with the addition of their two sons-in-law, Daniel and Kris and their daughter-in-law, Madeline!
After earning her first bachelor’s degree, Lisa did social work for six years. Four of those years were working with delinquent adolescent males in a residential treatment center. After that, Lisa worked for The Center for Children and Youth Services with a program called Parent-Infant Enrichment. She served as an Outreach worker, visiting, supporting, and educating young people who were also parenting. It was during these years that she saw, first hand, infants and children in environments that were stressful for, and neglectful of children. During one of her regular home-visits, Lisa went to see one of the girls in her program. While she waited, she observed an infant, still strapped into his carrier, sitting on a coffee table in front of the TV. She turned the little guy around, noticing how obviously neglected and dirty the child was, and then looked into his eyes and spoke to him. It took a moment for the baby to realize that the sound wasn’t just the drone of the television but was the voice of a real person speaking to him. He was visibly startled, having become accustomed to sitting alone and being unattended for hours. It was heartbreaking.
During a similar home-visit, Lisa observed another of her young moms impatiently lifting her newborn son out of his crib by one arm. That day, Lisa spent time in discussion with the young mother about the way in which she and her child interacted. The way an infant is handled and responded to directly affects a child’s sense of worth. In 1991, a devastating event caused Lisa to close the social work chapter of her life. A six-month old baby was beaten to death by his young father. The baby was the nephew of one of the families Lisa saw regularly, and consequently, they asked Lisa to take them to the funeral. This traumatic death happened while Lisa and Jim were expecting their second child. Lisa was able to be at home with their two young daughters (and their son who joined the family in 1997) until she went back to school to get her Education degree in 2002.
In 2004, Lisa received her bachelor’s degree in Education. In 2006, Lisa began teaching for Wauseon Exempted Village Schools. Lisa spent three years teaching Kindergarten visual art and Title I. In her fourth year of teaching, she took on the Title I role full time. In 2014, Lisa finished her Master’s of Education degree with a focus in Classroom Technology. While reading “Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns” by Clayton Christensen, Lisa stumbled upon a body of research that hit very close to home.
“By age 4, the best that can be expected from education or intervention programs is to keep less advantaged children from falling even further behind.” (Hart and Risely)
Lisa was seeing the same evidence in her own classroom. Five year-old-students who came curious and eager to take in everything they could get their hands on, or quite the opposite. Kindergarten students who seemed apathetic and void of even a desire to learn. Some with language skills so far behind, their spoken words were incomprehensible. Boys and girls who had not held a writing tool, and whose lives were obviously devoid of the 1000 lap hours that are prerequisite for school.
Lisa began having conversations with her Principal about the need to get this information out to young people sooner! Conversations with him flowed into talks with other Principals, Superintendents, Grant writers, Curriculum Directors, teachers, and parents. Lisa knew another lecture-based parenting class was not the answer. Somewhere in this process, the idea came to create artistically made videos, curriculum, and hands-on interactive supports that convey the vital information and have a deep and lasting emotional effect.
In collaboration with Bryce Veazey of Major Oak Creative and Fulton County Job and Family Services, the It All Matters team produced the first impact video, Speak to Your Kids, in 2018. In 2019, the team constructed and piloted the cutting edge parenting curriculum, Bamboo Babies, with great success. Although COVID-19 has impeded the process, plans are underway for more classes in the future (as soon as it is safe to do so)!
These great successes have provided the momentum for the team’s newest project, Bamboo Boxes. We are, at this moment, crafting these research-based kits with the hopes of cultivating parent-child connection through developmentally appropriate play. Our organization’s goal is to put these tools in the hands of families everywhere so we can spark as many of these vital conversations and interactions as possible, because It All Matters.