William Visher, a science teacher at Black Fox Elementary School in Murfreesboro proudly calls himself a Tennessee guy.
Originally from Chattanooga, William graduated from Brainerd High School in 1978. Afterward, he went on to join the Navy serving as a sonar technician on submarines for nearly five years.
While stationed in South Carolina, he traveled all over the world including visiting places in Africa, Europe, Australia and even owning a home in Japan.
FROM LOS ANGELES to MURFREESBORO
After getting out of the Navy, he moved back home to Chattanooga before packing it all up in 1986 and moving to Los Angeles in order to pursue an acting career.
“A cousin of mine and I both decided we didn’t want to get to be in our 40s and 50s and question what if, so we sold all of our worldly belongings and went for it,” he said.
William took theatre classes, signed up with a casting agency and even got the opportunity to work on a Michael Jackson Pepsi commercial.
“I eventually started working at a school because I’ve always liked education. I’ve always liked learning,” he said. “I was out there and I was teaching at a school in ’92 when the L.A. riots broke out after the Rodney King verdict.”
William said he worked a few blocks from where the riots started and could look out of his back window of his classroom and see building going up in a blaze one after another.
“It was very surreal, but when you work at a school you just think about getting the children safe. You have to maintain your composure, but it was like a war zone,” he said.
William said it was at the point or shortly thereafter when he realized, maybe he would better off in back home in Chattanooga in a quieter lifestyle. So the next year he moved back to the South.
While back home, William attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. He graduated in 2000 with a degree in, what was at the time called human ecology and what is now known as early childhood education.
“I was in a program called Each One Reach One, which was a program they had at the time for African American males. They paid books, tuitions, testing, and they footed the bills because there was lack of a black male presence in elementary education and education as a whole.”
From there William went on to the University of West Georgia in Carrollton, Georgia to receive a Master’s degree in early childhood education in 2003. After Georgia, he came back to Tennessee and earned an Ed. S., or Educational Specialist, degree from Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee in 2005.
All the while, William had been teaching elementary school and going to school.
“At the time, there was just a lot going on with the economy and teachers were being let go, so for a variety of reasons, I decided to get another income stream. Teaching was just not as solid as I thought it was, and in 2008, I decided to become a freelance writer,” he said.
William quit teaching elementary school all together in 2009 to focus on his freelance career. The year after, he taught college at Dalton State College in Georgia and then decided if he really wanted to pursue writing he had to move to a larger city.
“I was halfway between Atlanta and Nashville,” he said. “I liked the vibe and feel of Nashville and Middle Tennessee. I feel like people are nicer here and there were a lot more writing and publishing opportunities in Nashville.”
While freelancing, William did songwriting, educational writing, business writing and anthology work.
William, now lives in Murfreesboro. When he first moved to the area his roommate at the time, who he was co-producing and co-writing an album with, was going to MTSU.
When he decided to come back to teaching, William said he had initially wanted to work in Murfreesboro but Metro Nashville Public Schools were the first to call so he moved to there and commuted to Nashville for three years.
“I’m a small town guy by heart,” he said.
LOVE for EDUCATION
“I was one of those individuals who read early,” William said. “I’ve always been literate and interested in words. I like reading, writing, listening and speaking. I like sharing information, teaching other people and learning from other people.”
William said one of his favorite parts about teaching is when the lights come on for students, and they say, “Ohh, okay. I get it now.”
“You can lead a people to a classroom but you can’t make them learn so if you can cause learning by generating enough enthusiasm and passion through your life to make people want to read and learn then it’s marvelous.”
Initially, when William decided to come back to teaching he substituted for the first two years in order to generate more income while working on his writing projects.
“It rejuvenated me,” he said about reconnecting with his love for education. “Beacuracy can really wear you down, and there came a time when I felt like I spent much less time teaching and so much more time testing or preparing for a test, going to trainings or going to meetings. It became imbalanced, and I’ve learned you’re always going to have to deal with that as a teacher.”
He said depending on the school system and the leadership dictates how much of those imbalances are mitigated.
“I have a great team,” he said. “We all have different strengths. We work well together, it’s a great bunch of kids.”
Williams has approximately 80 students total in the four rotating classrooms he teaches throughout the day.
“I love education but schools can box you in sometimes. I hate forcing students to read and write. I like to lead them along and show them that they can do it and it’s possible to feel comfortable with it,” he said. “I try to allow students to read what they want and I try to bring in a variety of things for them like comic books or newspapers.”
He said teaching for him has been about nurturing students in the classroom, bringing them along and finding ways for them to be successful.
“We [teachers] treat reading as a subject. Reading is a skill. It is how you access the world and what you like to do.”
HEART for the HOMELESS
“I’ve always had a burden for the homeless and low income community,” he said. “My church has an active ministry for the disenfranchised, and I’ve been working with them on that since I moved here.”
William attends the Experience Community Church in Murfreesboro who serve the homeless every Sunday, rain or shine, sleet or snow.
“It’s not just about serving them food, it’s also about [developing] a relationship with them,” William said.
Having worked with the homeless community in every place he’s lived prior, William said there are a lot of misconceptions about the homeless that need to be addressed and shattered.
He said some of those misconceptions are that homeless people don’t want to work, they always want a handout and that it’s usually their fault their homeless.
“Sometimes it’s drugs, sometimes it’s mental illness, sometimes people just have bad luck,” he said. “It’s a lot more difficult when you don’t have a community to support you.”
He said The Contributor, the homeless publication, has been helpful because it gives a people a job.
“Many of the homeless people I have met want an honest job. Do some of them drink when you give them money? Probably. But that’s their money, too. I’m sure I get resources that I waste, it’s just that I have more options,” he said.
To help solve the problem of homeless in Nashville and Murfreesboro, William said individuals and organizations like churches have to be more involved and less afraid.
“Seeing a veteran in a position like that is a very hurtful thing to see. Can’t we do anything? Can’t we provide? There are ways to do but we’ve got to be willing as a community to take a chance on people,” he said.
As far as his future, William hopes to finish a screenplay he’s been working on and then begin producing and directing it into a motion picture. Along with the screenplay, he is also working on a concurrent book.
The screenplay and the book deal with exploring the lives of homeless people. He said he hopes to create compassion and thoughtfulness toward the homeless community from his work.
As far as educating William said he’ll always be a teacher of some sort, but would eventually like to become more involved in the literary world.
“I like to do a lot of different things. It’s not that I get bored. I just have a really high curiosity of the world and for the world,” he said. “As much as I love teaching, I don’t see myself doing it for 30 years.
William said right now the thing that matters most to him in life is truth.
“There’s so much deception and noise out there. Truth matters to me in all of its forms: spiritually, emotionally, psychologically. There have been relationships with family and friends I’ve been in that have not turned out to be truthful. I’m about truth for me and truth from and for others.”
William said writing everyday really opened up his eyes and unearthed a lot of things that he would have not otherwise seen.
“Truth can be a hard pill to swallow sometimes,” he said. “We’re not all going to like each other. I love everyone, and I’m going to state that because of who God is. God is love and I believe in God, but everybody is not good for me and I’m not good for everybody, and that’s truth,” he said.
He said when he got rid of the noise, starting fasting from media periodically and taking walks in nature things starting unlocking for him.
“I can honestly say I am not only the happiest but also the most joyful and most thankful than I’ve been in my whole life on an ongoing basis. I am sitting in butter and I’m don’t even know what that means,” he said laughing.
William said he’s a completely different person than who he was in 2008. He said now he’s much more of a listener, more thoughtful and just overall nicer person especially when it comes to his children in his class.
““Language is the product of thought, and I’m amazed at the amount of negativity in the world. The children in my classroom aren’t data, and they’re not just students. They’re human beings,” he said.
COMMUNITY as DEFINED
William defined community as a “fluid thing.”
“It’s people with each other and working together. The classroom is a community. Your church is a community. Your family is your family but it’s also a community. You can have bad communities as well as good communities.”
William said he loves Murfreesboro because’s it’s quaint and quiet but he said he’s concerned that sometimes the individual members of the community aren’t reflective or considerate of the other members and how their words or actions may affect a shared environment.
“In any community we just need to watch what we say. Words mean things. Words matter.”
When he’s not writing or teaching, William loves to bike on the greenways, go to local concerts, visit Centennial Park, attend the monthly art crawls and go downtown Nashville to hear jazz music.
“I am happy with who I am. I like me a lot. Being a writer and being aware of who I am has transformed me. Everyone can be like too. People dig their own holes and get in their own way. I did it for a long time.”
Thanks for reading Nashville!
Every Thursday at noon Neat Nashville embraces the community by highlighting an individual in a feature article that tells their story and voices their concerns about the city moving forward. It is our hope to inspire good change locally, to be a force of unity, and support the people we all call neighbors.
It starts with community. It starts where you are.