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Back to School at Williams Academy


Williams Academy, Crossnore’s charter school on our Avery campus, started back to school on August 5th. It has been an exciting start to the year. It’s widely known that Williams Academy is a special place with special people. We don’t take it for granted, that with protocols and safety precautions in place, we are able to be physically present with one another. Nothing compares to seeing the smiles and interactions of students and staff each day.

Williams Academy consists of both residential and community students. Residents make up 70% of the school population, and we open 30% of our spots to the community. With a 10:1 ratio, class sizes are smaller, and children receive a more hands-on and engaged learning experience. The staff consists of more than 90 students, 17 teachers, two administrators, one IT director, and four support staff personnel.

Our Amazing Teachers, Staff, & Students

“Our teachers are masters at differentiation,” says Dr. Cyndi Austin, Williams Academy principal. “They are able to meet each student where they are and help them get where they need to be. We offer equitable education so that all students receive the individualized instruction they need.”

Jessica Mains, former middle school teacher now assistant principal, agrees. “Our staff is the strongest I have ever worked with. There is such a team mentality, and everyone’s goal is to do what is best for all students.” And they’re not the only ones that are exceptional. “The kids are phenomenal,” she continues. “They come to us with deficits and trauma, and we go to see them grow at exponential rates.”

Kaitlyn Sudderth is ecstatic about joining the Academy staff, after recently returning back home to the area. She joined this year as the middle grades social studies and science teacher and describes the experience as a “dream come true.” Her goal as a teacher is to help the students learn to love learning. “I hope that they learn how to engage socially and scientifically, not just in the classroom but in their everyday lives,” she says.

Rob Fuldner is a longtime employee of Crossnore. Since 2007 he has worked in the Coffee Shop, the Work Program, and as a teacher for Williams. “The students deserve only our best,” he says. “These children are endearing. And we are working to prepare them for the lives they want and the lives they deserve. Our students are more aware of what life can be. They have already experienced disappointment. It sharpens their senses.”

Hope back in the halls.

The beginning of the school year is always a special time. Whitney Shoupe, tenth-year English teacher says, “Some of the students have been in my class for three years. So when school comes back in session, it is like seeing an old friend again.” When students are eager to share their lives with you – what they did over the summer or what’s going on in their lives – you know you’re making a difference.

Mr. Victor, a former cottage parent, joined the Academy staff this year as Community Liaison and Security. In welcome, the staff decked out his bike with a blue and red light, fully loaded with four different alarm sounds, a “Security” license plate, and a security decal for his bike helmet. “He has been a wonderful addition to the family,” says Dr. Austin.

And so, we are back with bells on. Dr. Austin says that the silence of summer can be deafening. She is so excited to hear greetings of, “Hey, Mrs. Dr. Austin,” and see their smiles as she walks the halls. Already a Kindergartner has cried. Not because she had to be at school, but because she had to leave.

Hopes for a wonderful year.

Ms. Maines’ goal for the students this year is that they see the value of education. “I hope they can take refuge within our walls to explore and challenge themselves in ways they never have.” Failure is not an option at the Academy. It doesn’t mean we don’t mess up. Of course we do. Failure – the unacceptable kind – is when you give up after falling. So we hope for our children, this year, that they keep getting up, keep taking steps – even if those steps are small.

“They have started strong,” says Dr. Austin. “I want them to stay strong and finish strong… Falcon strong.”