KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A middle school special education teacher took one of the top honors at the Knox County Schools Teacher of the Year banquet. 

Lora Williams had been in the classroom advocating for students with disabilities for nearly two decades. 

“I appreciate the people that have had the confidence in me throughout the years, and I really appreciate the people who helped me along the way,” Williams said. 

Williams teaches at Carter Middle School. She says she found her life calling in teaching students with disabilities. She is one of three district-wide winners who were honored by the school district. A teacher from each grade band was recognized. She was chosen for fifth grade to eighth grade. 

Williams is well-loved by her students.

“I mean they are people first. They are not their disability at all. Each kid has their own special thing about them,” Williams said. 

Williams is also finding ways to promote social inclusion. She helped her school obtain Unified Champion School status through the Special Olympics. 

“The unified portion is the (general education) students. They go with us to our Special Olympic events. They are also very much a part of our class, and they are in some related area times and practice Special Olympic activities,” Williams said. 

She also leads her students in community-based instruction. 

“We go out to local stores and restaurants and make purchases, order food, learn how to pay for items. Just making those real-world connections,” Williams said. 

Every day Williams strives to make a difference in the lives of her students. 

“It’s been really neat to see kids make growth in those areas that have really opened doors for them in other ways,” she said. 

Williams also spearheaded the effort at Carter Middle School to stop the use of the “R” word. Students sign a pledge card that they will not use the word because they understand that it’s hurtful.