Beloved Oakman High teacher passes away

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Many in Walker County are mourning the sudden loss of an Oakman High School teacher.

Rhonda Williams, a special education teacher at Oakman, passed away unexpectedly last Thursday at the age of 61.

According to Oakman High Principal Leathan Waid, Williams had been a teacher at the school for at least seven years. She also taught for over a decade at Carbon Hill High School. 

"She would always have a way of making your day better. She was always the one in the hallway that would stop and tell you a funny story about something that happened to her over the weekend," Waid said.

He recalled that Williams always took the time to celebrate and show appreciation for those in her life. Waid said she did celebratory birthday meals for faculty and staff members, and she was known for providing words of hope during tough times. 

"One of the things that I personally appreciated about Mrs. Williams is that she was great about leaving you a note of encouragement," Waid said. "I have several notes that she left me since we've been here working together."

Williams was involved with school organizations, helped plan homecoming, and Waid said she would often volunteer to help at school-sponsored sporting events. 

"She made connections outside of the classroom, and because of that, her students were really attached to her," Waid said. "She was a great teacher in the classroom, but she did things outside of the classroom. She was always planning a trip, always doing a special activity with the students."

School counselors were available on Monday to comfort students and staff members at Oakman High, and a box was placed outside of Williams' classroom for everyone to drop off notes and cards that will be given to her family.

"Oakman High School loved her, and she's going to be missed here," Waid said.

A statement was shared on the Carbon Hill High School Facebook page in memory of Williams which read, in part, "She worked tirelessly through the Walt Williams Memorial Ride (in honor of her late husband) to provide scholarships to deserving seniors throughout Walker County. Her smile and laughter will certainly be missed."

Williams organized the Walt Williams Golden Deeds Ride each year, and proceeds were used to provide student scholarships and assist local families undergoing hardships. 

She was also co-owner of Bares Bones Cargo, a popular business that was located in downtown Jasper for a number of years. 

Visitation for Williams will be held on Thursday, April 1 at 4 p.m. at Kilgore-Green Funeral Home in Jasper. Funeral services will follow at 6 p.m. at the funeral home.

In a "Walker County Can" video published to Facebook in 2017, Williams talked about her love for teaching and working with special education students. 

"I love it when a student comes in here and thinks they can't do something and then they succeed in it, and I see that in their eyes when they've been successful," she said. "I also love it when I go out into the community and a previous student is working somewhere. ... I'm excited about that because I know something we did in high school stuck with them and helped."