We had the good fortune of connecting with Cheryl Williams and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Cheryl, what role has risk played in your life or career?
I believe that taking risks are essential for growth and opportunity in all aspects of life. By taking risks we use the time we do have rather than putting things off and waiting to figure out the perfect prerequisites or circumstances to live life and complete our dreams and goals.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I am a special education teacher for the Oceanside Unified School District. I have been teaching children 2nd-8th grades that have moderate to severe disabilities for 23 years. I also teach at Stuart Mesa Elementary and Middle School which is on Camp Pendleton Marine Base. All of my students have parents in the military. I feel that my love for children with special needs especially with moderate to severe disabilities sets me apart from others. I have a desire to connect and help on more than just an educational level but on a life level that would create inclusive and enrichment opportunities for them and their families to thrive, to access and feel a part of their communities, and to ultimately be the best they can be and SHINE! I am the most proud of the students that have moved on from me in their education and lives to be young adults that are more independent, seeking out their passions, being a part of their community, and happy. I am also so proud of the individuals that have spent time in my classroom as an instructional aide, volunteer, or student teacher to go on and become special education teachers. It wasn’t an easy road becoming a special education teacher. I actually started my career when I was hired in January 2000 by OUSD when I was a long term substitute under the condition that I complete my credential. So that year, I started teaching and learning on the job having no clue, began my credential program in special education and general education, and began my Masters program in the evenings after teaching all day. Doing my credential program concurrently, I was able to implement all that I was learning in my classroom and receive great guidance from my professors. I was able to able to see the need for more enriching opportunities outside the school setting which prompted the start of the Shine Project Foundation nonprofit in 2014. What I have learned along the way is how important public education is and the necessity to have appropriate support and funding for our teachers, aides, staff, and all those working at the schools so that we can truly make a positive impact on the lives of children. I also have learned that that creating more opportunities to help enrich the lives of children with special needs and provide more inclusive access and resources within the community for their families is integral for the betterment of all people and society. I want others to know that I am very passionate about helping children with special needs and I want to truly see them Shine. I want to share our mission for the Shine Project Foundation and teach others about children with special needs and how to best support them and their families within their community so that we can build equity, empathy, compassion, and spread love for all.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
If my best friend were to visit and I wanted to show them the best time ever. It would begin with a walk to Carlsbad State Beach and then to a local breakfast spot in the downtown Carlsbad Village. Then I would take her to a Yoga class, beach to follow in the afternoon. In the evening, set up a sunset happy hour back at the beach or on the cliffs. We would then have a delicious dinner at any one of the amazing restaurants in the village. And end the night by singing Karaoke back home. As far as exciting places to check, I would say any of the Carlsbad Beaches, Torrey Pines Reserve, Old Town, of course downtown San Diego, and for live music the Belly Up and the Rady’s Shell Outdoor Theater.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would like make a Shoutout to my family for supporting me in my passion for children with special needs and for helping with The Shine Project Foundation and its events. And I would like to shoutout all children with special needs. Seeing you you all shine is the reason why I have my nonprofit.

Website: theshineprojectfoundation.org

Instagram: @theshineprojectfoundation

Facebook: The Shine Project Foundation

Youtube: The Shine Project Foundation

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