Rosaryville Elementary School special education teacher Vivia Thomas said she remembers the last time she saw principal Regina C. Williams, in February 2007.
“We were doing early dismissal,” Thomas said, recalling preparations for a winter storm. “We were talking about plans to allow the sixth-graders to wear red shirts and jeans in honor of Valentine’s Day. And that's the last time I saw her.”
On Feb. 14, 2007, Williams, 51, died in a car crash when she was broadsided by another driver at a traffic light that wasn’t functioning because of a power outage in the aftermath of the winter storm, said Williams’ daughter, Rotoya Williams. She is survived by her daughters, Rotoya and Rene’ya Williams, and her husband, Glenwood Williams Jr.
In memory of Williams, the school’s media center will be renamed in her honor Friday. The effort to have the media center renamed began at the fifth anniversary of Williams’ death, said current principal Rhonda Green.
Williams will be commemorated at the media center with a plaque presented by the Prince George’s County Board of Education, Green said.
Williams spent more than 20 years as a teacher in county schools, before becoming assistant principal at Rosaryville when it opened in 1999; she was promoted to principal in 2005.
Rotoya Williams, 26, of Bowie, said she still runs into people who say that her mother’s work had a positive effect on them.
“There are people who may have only met her once, but they still remember her,” Rotoya Williams said. “They can even still tell me their account of how she helped them and changed their lives, including former students.”
Regina Williams always was caring toward teachers, students and parents, Thomas said.
“Whatever you were coming to her about, she made you feel like it was very important,” Thomas said. “She would hold your hand as you talked. She gave you the attention you needed to feel comfortable. There was just something special about her.”
Thomas, whose daughter, Ronique, was in the first grade at the Upper Marlboro school at the time, said Williams’ death left the school community in shock.
“The whole school just seemed very sad, for the children and for the adults and parents,” she said. “I know it was sad for me. It took a couple of days to put myself together.”
Green — who became principal in fall 2007 — said that, although she never worked with Williams, the school community has continued to rally around the late principal.
“Being principal, you hear from parents about what you're doing — good or bad — and how you compare [to your predecessor],” Green said. “I've never heard one negative thing about Mrs. Williams.”
Green said the community initially wanted to change the school’s name in Williams’ honor, but decided on the media center because previous schools also have been named Rosaryville, giving the current name “historical significance.”
Rotoya Williams and her family started a scholarship fund in her mother’s honor after her death; to date, they have provided more than $20,000 in scholarships to 35 students, she said.
Green informing her family about the plan to rename the media center, “was like an answer to my prayers,” Williams added.
“I had never really thought about the media center’s name being changed,” she said. “I knew something might be done eventually, but we never pushed for it. So when I got the call [about the renaming being approved], I was just overwhelmed with joy.”