Sarah Faller Williams came to IRCS with her sisters in 2002. Her parents reviewed all of the private school options in this area of Pinellas County and decided on Indian Rocks Christian School. Sarah said, “And I am sure glad they did.” She started as a 3rd grade student in Mrs. Maxwell’s class where she met many of the students with whom she was able to graduate. This gave her a total of 10 years with the IRCS experience.
One of the goals we have as a school is for our students to be successful in college after graduation from IRCS. I asked Sarah how we did on this part and she replied, “The teachers and faculty at Indian Rocks promote independence and problem solving amongst students. I would say these two tools were absolutely necessary throughout my college years. A couple of things that come to mind are Mrs. Hayward’s 11th grade English class and Mr. Hayward’s classes. In Mrs. Hayward’s class, she taught us ways to be successful when taking the ACT and the SAT particularly the writing portion. In Mr. Hayward’s class, he would often times push us past our comfort zone to participate in a class discussion and anyone who has been in a college class knows that being able to participate in a class discussion is necessary to survival. Not only did he have us participate, but he would often counter our point or present a contrasting opinion. A discussion is easy when you are in a group of like-minded people but much more challenging when you are in mixed company. Mr. Hayward helped us to prepare this young adult skill in a safe environment.”
Another emphasis IRCS has as a school is the spiritual development of our students. A big part of that comes from their exposure to missions. I asked Sarah if she took advantage of any of these opportunities, she said, “I was able to participate in four mission opportunities while at Indian Rocks. Freshmen year I went to Jamaica with the Pacecca’s and Mrs. Sitton where we were able to build a house for a family in need. We also visited an infirmary which houses the elderly population in Jamaica. I would say this was where God really worked in my young 15 year old heart. He showed me that we are all God’s people and that there are people who need our help. It was my “wake up” call. It showed me a very different way of life than what I was normally accustomed to and gave me a sense of reality. From that time on, I have noticed a pull on my heart to help people and an awareness of other’s needs. Sophomore year I was a part of the South Florida team with pastor JJ that participated in outreaches in Miami such as organizing donations for homeless shelters and serving those people. That was a unique opportunity that showed me we have people in need not far from home. That we can be actively sharing Christ’s love by helping others where we live. Junior year I joined the Jamaica team for a second time and I was able to return to the infirmary where I would say I first fell in love with missions. My senior year I was a part of the Dominican Republic / Puerto Rico team with the Fosters and the Haywards.”
I asked for a favorite memory from high school and Sarah said, “School spirit. I loved the pep rallies my senior year. It was so much fun to cheer on our school with all of those friends I had grown up with. It was more than just sports, it was a sense of community and encouraging our dear friends.” What Sarah, a cheer team captain, failed to mention was that during her four years of high school, IRCS won an FHSAA state championship (2011), had two second place finishes (2009, 2010) and the other year (2012) finished 3rd in the state. Additionally, they won four Fellowship of Christian Cheerleaders National titles during this span. She came back during her college years and helped coach cheerleading here at IRCS.
When asked if there was a teacher that had a particular impact on her life she said, “Mrs. Busjahn had a significant impact on my life. I had always dreamed of becoming a teacher as a little girl but my senior year English class with Mrs. Busjahn really sealed the deal. She was passionate about meeting the needs of every student and treating us with compassion and care. We were more than just another group of teenagers to her, you could tell she truly cared for our personal wellbeing in and out of the classroom. I strive every day to be that kind of teacher for my students. I pray that they feel loved and respected every day they are in my classroom.”
So what led her to teaching you ask? She said, “I had always dreamed of being a first or second grade teacher. I attended and graduated from USFSP where I received a BA in elementary education with a dual certification in teaching students with special needs. Throughout my internships, I thought the ESE certification was going to help me since there are several students with special needs in the general education classroom.
After Ryan and I got married (husband Ryan Williams is a 2011 IRCS graduate) and moved to Lakeland, I began job hunting for my “dream job.” I was hired to be a first grade teacher and could not have been more excited. Unfortunately, that year was extremely difficult for me. Here I was working my “dream job” and nothing seemed to be working, every step felt like three huge steps back. I began to question my career choice completely and would sit in my classroom after school praying for God to show me what He wanted and why was I there.
After lots of prayer, I chose to leave that position and begin the job hunt again. A season of waiting followed, where I had nothing but to trust in God that He would show me the path He wanted me to take. Just as I was at the end of my frustration, losing hope and considering a different career, a position opened at Lakeland Christian School. It was a position for a teacher in their Discovery program for students with Autism and like disabilities. I had always thought I would eventually like to teach at LCS since I loved my time at Indian Rocks and had such a huge impact in my life, but ESE teacher? I just was not sure that was for me. I took the leap and went in for the interview and because of God’s faithfulness, was selected for the position and I have absolutely fallen in love with ESE teaching. Looking back now, little did I know that God has been preparing me for this for years. I am humbled and in awe of His grace.
Ryan and I, in large part, have Indian Rocks to thank for giving us the foundation of prayer and the many lessons learned during Bible classes and weekly chapels that helped us get through that trial. I have been tremendously blessed by my time at Indian Rocks not only during those years but also skills and relationships founded there that I carry throughout my life.”
Sarah, we are blessed to have had you and Ryan as students at IRCS. We are very proud of you!