Dr. Natalie Williams
Year Honored: 2021
YULA High School
Los Angeles, CA
As the principal of the girls division of YULA High School in Los Angeles, Dr. Natalie Williams makes a priority of ensuring students’ social and emotional well-being, in addition to their academic success. She oversees the guidance department and brought in a mental health professional to lead group discussions, crisis counseling, and keep an eye on students’ psychological and emotional development. Dr. Williams also watches over the school’s religious environment, school culture, co-curricular events, athletics and performing arts. “We ensure that each student has the opportunity to grow, thrive, get involved and maximize her potential during high school,” she says.
With 17 years as an educator, six in her current position at YULA, Dr. Williams was inspired to teach by her family and her own experiences at school and camp. After graduating from Yeshiva University in New York in 2004 with a business degree and a stint in real estate, she moved to Los Angeles to teach at Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy in Beverly Hills and, at the same time, completed a master’s degree in teaching at American Jewish University. Dr. Williams thought her move to California would be temporary, but “I fell in love with education more than I ever thought I would,” she says.
Dr. Williams, who earned a doctorate in K-12 educational administration from Trident University in 2019, sees her role at YULA as helping teachers, faculty and staff develop meaningful connections with students, both within and outside the classroom. “Our school is famous for its relationships,” she says. Dr. Williams encourages her team to get to know the entire child, spending time with them in their comfort zones—the basketball court, on stage or in the art studio. She believes educators must be authentic and vulnerable with pupils and should feel like stakeholders in their futures. Dr. Williams impresses upon students that every individual brings something different to the world: “Like your voice or your fingerprint, the light you are meant to shine into the world is unique to you.”
Note: This biography was current at the time this educator received the Award