I am Dr. Michelle Williams Bridgewater, and I come to this project with 43 years in education. Since 2017, I have worked at Talladega College. I have been working in Higher Education since 2007. In addition to these educational experiences, my career began as a teacher of children with Learning Disabilities, teaching elementary students. During my second year with the school district, to be one of the inaugural teachers at its innovation school: The Educational Programs for the individual Child (EPIC). After working for eleven years, I interviewed and was selected to be a Program Specialist for The Early Childhood Special Education program. I developed the program from the ground up for the school district. I am proud to say that several of the initial procedures are still in operation today. My education began in Birmingham City Schools, and I received my undergraduate degree from The University of Alabama. I have also earned a certification in Educational Leadership, an Educational Specialist degree in Educational Leadership and, a Doctorate in Educational Leadership with a minor in Special Education Law. My Doctorate was a joint venture between The University of Alabama and the University of Alabama at Birmingham. My role with the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) and the Talladega College (TG) Virtual Liberal Arts Innovation Center (LAIC) for education will be to assist with training and instructing Teacher preparation candidates and other educators wishing to be a part of this program.

During my time with Birmingham City Schools, I was very active with programs serving young children including, Head Start and the National Association for Young Children (NAEYC) as a participant and a Board member. My first Higher education experience took place at the University of Alabama, teaching- fifth-year students obtaining their Collaborative Special Education degrees. During my time in Online Higher Education, I taught students pursuing their Doctorates in Educational Leadership. I was fortunate enough to work with two online Universities Argosy University and Keiser University. In addition to teaching, I chaired and co-chaired Dissertations. While at both Universities, I presented as a member of the faculty at their required Residencies. I enjoyed presenting at residencies because it was my only opportunity to meet my students face to face. It was also a unique experience because I worked with students from various cultures and nationalities worldwide. I was even privileged to teach some active-duty troops worldwide who chose to pursue their education with these universities.

Coming to Talladega has brought me full circle as I use my special education knowledge to develop new teachers for the field. I forgot to mention that while I was a Program Specialist, I was assigned to work with various agencies on behalf of our Birmingham City special education students. One such agency was the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind in Talladega. I know there is a need for qualified and compassionate teachers in the field. As part of my devotion to children and adults with disabilities, I have served on the Association for Retarded Citizens (ARC) Board of Directors of Jefferson County for five years. It was a highlight of my life. We worked together to provide new placements for clients who were once institutionalized. Having attended the University of Alabama, I had completed practicums at Bryce and Partlow, two Institutions located in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The ARC also bought a new campus for our clients, which provided more adaptive educational opportunities. It was wonderful seeing some of the clients begin transitioning to employment as the ARC worked with community members to provide these opportunities.

I have been fortunate to work for the last forty-three years to serve my community through Church, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, The Links, Inc., and Jack and Jill of America, Inc. I have two sons who learned a great deal about service to others as they participated in church and Jack and Jill. As the great Shirley Chisholm stated, “Service is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on this earth.”