Although it was my first time officially meeting Dr. White, I could immediately see why she has been dubbed a favorite teacher by so many students. She greeted me with a smile on her face as she sat down in front of a bookcase that overflowed with classic novels, her energetic and cheerful attitude consuming the entire room. From the moment we sat down, she became my favorite teacher I never had.
Dr. White received her B.A. in Latin and Psychology from Duke University, her M.A. in English at Old Dominion University, and her Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Throughout the course of our conversation, I garnered many fascinating stories and tidbits from her.
Did you always want to be a teacher?
No. I had no idea what I wanted to do. Actually, my mom was a stay at home mom, so I always thought I’d be a stay at home mom. Then when I got to Duke, I wanted to serve my country, so I was in the Navy. When I [joined] the Navy, I realized after a while, maybe the Navy was not for me. So then I taught Latin at a local middle school, and realized I really liked teaching. That’s when I went to ODU to get an Education degree, but then I realized I liked English so much better, so I switched. I didn’t know what I was going to do with an English Ph.D. I had a fellowship, and the first year I didn’t have to teach, but then I taught a class or two for the rest of the time and thought, “Oh, I really like teaching!” So, I just sort of fell into teaching. I really love it.
What is your favorite part about teaching?
Getting to know the students. I really love my students.
How has faith affected your classroom?
I’ve always been Catholic. When I was a kid I went to mass, but then I never went again until about 1999, and I started going to mass everyday. If I do anything, I’m doing it all the way. So I’ve been going to mass every day for about 15 years. I taught at a secular school for a long time before I came to Regent. You weren’t allowed to talk about God, but people always knew I went to mass every day because they would come to class and we would talk. If a student ever came to me with a problem, I’d say, “I’ll pray for you.” Everyone knew I was a Catholic Christian, so I just tried to model it. But here, you can talk about Jesus in the classroom. So it’s really neat seeing other people’s faith journeys and to look at literature. Like, look at Hemingway’s characters — they were lost, but if they had God, they wouldn’t have been so lost. So, it’s kind of neat trying to put that final piece there.
Do you have a favorite Bible verse or Bible passage?
“Faith without works is dead.” I really like that. I love my husband, I love him to death. So in the morning, I’ll get up and get his breakfast ready, or I’ll go pick up his medicine for him — I’ll do things because I love him, and he does sweet things for me too. If I love someone, I want to do stuff for them… it makes their life easier. Since I love Jesus, I want to help his people. So that’s why I do a lot of volunteer work, and I do a lot of stuff with homeless people, and I try to love people.
What are your hobbies?
I have two dogs, no kids — I look at my students as my children. I am a long-distance runner. I’ve done 14 marathons, and an ironman triathlon. I worked out for the ironman triathlon for 20 hours a week for 5 months. The ironman triathlon was a 2.4 mile swim, followed by a 110 mile bike, followed by a 26.2 mile run. It took me 12 ½ hours. I was third in my age group. I’ve also written four books, but finishing that was one of my biggest accomplishments.
Who are your favorite authors?
Dickens. I love Charles Dickens. I love Hemingway and Fitzgerald too. I love Robert Frost as a poet, and T.S. Elliot.
Do you have any advice for students?
If you are trying to overload classes or you are thinking, ‘Oh, I’m not going to get an A or A-,’ you will never remember whether or not you got an A or A- in five years. But you will remember the fact that you had the worst summer or spring of your life because you were so overloaded or stressed out that you were miserable all of the time. No one is going to know if you were a 3.8, 3.9, 3.2, or whatever. And for the other students, I would say I know you have to do this, I know you have to be here, and I know you all want a degree, but if you have to be here, you might as well make something of it.