The Capstone Education Society of The University of Alabama’s College of Education selected this year’s recipients of the annual alumni awards to be presented at Homecoming this year.  Dr. Avis Williams, superintendent of Selma City Schools, and Candace Garner, Haleyville City Schools, are recognized for their good works promoting education and the lives of students.

Harold L. Bishop Awards for Leaders

Portrait of Dr. Avis Williams

Dr. Avis Williams

Dr. Avis Williams, superintendent of the historic Selma City School System, has been recognized by national, state, and local organizations as an outstanding innovative leader in the field of education. She is a champion for equity with a passion for developing leadership pipelines through mentoring.

She contributes who she is today to the guidance of her mentor and advisor, Dr. Harold Bishop. Dr. Bishop’s influence is clearly evident in Selma City Schools. Dr. Williams’ educational philosophies reflect Dr. Bishop’s passion for equity in education. Her dedication to equity has been highlighted by The School Superintendents Association, Cognia, and edFocus. Equity is a core value of Selma City Schools.  Her Aspiring Leaders Academy mentoring program also reflects Dr. Bishop’s influence. It focuses on developing an internal leadership pipeline, with a goal of promoting 80% of employees from within. Her aim in the mentoring program is to equip the mentees with the skills they need to be successful as Dr. Bishop did for her while she was completing her Ed.S. and Ed.D. at The University and through the University of Alabama Superintendents Academy.

Her leadership path to becoming a superintendent includes serving as a principal at the elementary, middle and high school levels, as the Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction in Greensboro, North Carolina where she led instruction for over 60 schools, and as the Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum in Tuscaloosa City Schools.

Dr. Avis Williams is the 2020 Alabama Alliance of Black School Educators Dr. Ulysess Byas Superintendent of the Year and a 2019 finalist for Alabama State Department of Education Superintendent of the Year. She was selected by her peers as the School Superintendents of Alabama District Two president. Avis was awarded the Marbury Technology Innovation award by the Alabama State Department of Education in 2011 as a principal and in 2019 as a superintendent.

Always stressing the importance of focusing on scholars, “Students First” is her mantra for Selma City Schools. Under her leadership, Selma City Schools has improved outcomes for scholars and the Selma community. This includes being released from four years of state intervention, increasing the district State Report Card by eight points and one letter grade, receiving the Alabama Performance Excellence Tier II Award, and earning the Cognia Accreditation Index of Educational Quality rating of (IEQ) 312.9 which was 100+ points higher than previous score. Under her leadership, the district earned recognition from the International Center for Leadership in Education as a “Model School Innovative District” for “Creating a Culture of Joy” in 2019.

As a nationally-recognized ambassador for education, Avis is a sought-out presenter. She has delivered dozens of professional development and motivational sessions to educators and leaders nationwide focusing on promoting equity, creating leadership pipelines, and developing a culture of joy.

James McLean Excellence in Education Award

Portrait of Candy Garner

Candace Garner

In 2018, Winfield City Schools became the first ever STEM-certified school district in the country. Later that year, Haleyville City Schools (HCS) became the second STEM-certified school district in Alabama to become STEM-certified. Led by National Board-Certified Teacher Candace Garner, these schools changed their projectory; she is a game changing teacher with a career spanning 32 years.

Candy Garner demonstrates excellence in all she does. She seeks best practice in her guidance and leadership of teachers, always improving and growing her knowledge of the teaching and learning profession. Garner has led seven schools through Cognia STEM Certification, as well as organizes and trains all stakeholders on implementing STEAM into the classroom through the HCS STEAM Initiative. She presents regularly at state and national conferences such as Council for Leadership of Alabama Schools (CLAS) and has written and received grants in the areas of STEAM and Robotics. She organized and received funding for a Student Space Experiment Program, mentoring students and teachers whose project won a spot aboard the International Space Station. Garner also trained the first HCS Student Presentation Team. This team of students in grades K-12 present and educate the community on the STEAM Initiative, explaining and demonstrating what STEAM learning looks like in their classrooms.

In addition to overseeing STEM-certification for seven Alabama schools, additional highlights of Garner’s career include creating the Winfield City Fall Festival, a joint partnership with the city, which was Alabama’s 2017 Park & Recreation Event of the Year; coaching the Student Space Experiment Conference team at the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum; receiving a Alabama Robotics Grant for the last four years; implementing a city-wide Haleyville news broadcast, The Roar; teaching master’s level classes for students seeking national board certification through National University; orchestrating annual Art/STEM Expos; creating faculty and student events on variety of topics; and overseeing the Haleyville City Schools Prom Closet, Formals and Frills.

Garner’s expertise shines not only as a leader of teachers, but also as a mentor, coach, supporter, facilitator, and planner. She has been instrumental in mentoring teachers, leading curriculum and instruction initiatives, planning engaging and motivating professional development activities, and propelling school districts to new heights in the area of STEAM.