To everything there is a season
AMERICUS — After 36 years of teaching, Teresa White retired as an educator on July 1, 2017. Her children are hosting a celebration honoring her achievements at 4 p.m. today, Jan. 13 at United Holiness Church, 901 Aaron Snipes Sr. Drive, Americus. This event is open to the public, and White encourages the community to attend.
Born in Lumpkin, Teresa White grew up with six siblings and was raised by her single father Isaac Gaines with the support of other educators in the community. While completing her secondary education in the Stewart County public school system, White was a babysitter and tutor for one of the principal’s children. After completing high school, White attended Tuskegee University, thinking she would pursue a career in medicine as a pediatrician.
“I always knew I wanted to help children,” White said. “But, medicine is not what God called me to do.”
Moving back to Georgia, White transferred to Albany State. While she was enrolled there, she began to babysit and tutor again. After graduating, White began her career as an educator in Douglas, Georgia. She taught there for two years before moving to Americus in 1983. She started teaching special education at Americus High School and became an active member in the Americus community.
“Children live what they learn and learn what they live,” White said. “I love teaching children, and it’s important that we, as a community teach them the right values. I remember when we used to organize protests and march. The teachers and churches got together, and we marched against teenage pregnancy and teenage drug use. When we marched, things got better, and we were making a difference.”
White also taught science at Sumter County Elementary, Staley Middle, Sumter County Middle, and the alternative school. In addition to teaching, White is a youth pastor at United Holiness Church. Throughout her time as an educator, she remembers impacting the lives of many young people and still stays in contact with many of her former students. White recalled former student Aaron Snipes. “He was one of the children that always used to visit my house and make a lot of noise,” she said. “He was beating on the drums and playing keyboard. He’s a band director now.”
During Americus High’s state championship seasons of 2000 and 2001, White remembered tutoring some of the players. “They used to come to our church for prayer meetings and I, along with other teachers, would help them with homework. We would have refreshments and they worked hard. We just enjoyed teaching kids and seeing them learn.”
In 2010, White left Americus, moving to Columbus to be with her daughter Johnna, who was diagnosed with a severe case of lupus.
“I didn’t leave Americus because I didn’t love it here; Americus is still home. I left because I needed to take care of my daughter and her children.” White continued to teach in Columbus at Kendrick High School and often commuted to Americus. “I always had the urge in my heart to help the children at Kendrick,” she said. “I wanted to give them a positive environment where they could live what they learned and learn what they lived.” White taught at Kendrick for five years, until Johnna died in 2015. Honoring her daughter’s wish, White transferred Johnna’s children from a private school to public school. The transition caused White to cease teaching at Kendrick. White would spend the remainder of her teaching career at Arnold.
Teresa White has three other children, Vincent, Alicia, and Jerome. They have organized the overdue celebration for her retirement. Regarding the celebration, White said, “I’m really not used to people honoring me for my accomplishments. I’m used to helping people get to where they need to be. I don’t want the focus to be on me, but for this to be a celebration of how God led me to where I am now. It’s as if I was predestined to teach.”
Even though she is now retired, White has started to substitute teach at Shaw and Columbus High. “At first I felt a little empty not going back for the current school year,” she said. “Then all I wanted was rest, but I love kids so much I don’t think I’ll ever stop teaching.”
White said she is thankful for her father Isaac Gaines, her husband, “her support and strong tower” Johnny White, and God for helping her in everything that she has accomplished.