Nearly four decades on the job and ELL teacher Pat White of Morton Middle School has lost none of her enthusiasm for what she calls the world’s greatest job.
“Every day is different. You never know what help my students will need,” said White, who started her career in New Jersey 36 years ago. In 1988, she moved to Kentucky, was hired at Morton and has been there ever since.
“One day, it will be help with science, the next social studies, the next the cafeteria.”
“I had a Cambodian student years back who couldn’t understand why her classmates were putting ketchup on french fries,” she said. “I explained why and encouraged her to try it.”
That leads into another story – and White is a natural born storyteller.
That same Cambodian student, like so many before and since, found a home in White’s classroom. At the end of the school year, she approached her teacher with a gift.
“It was a beautiful ring with garnets across it,” White said. “I told her that I couldn’t accept it. But she insisted, so I started wearing it to school.”
Years passed and the student gradually faded from White’s life. Then, a friend told White that a Cambodian woman who did her nails in a salon in Elizabethtown said she was White’s former student.
That summer, White drove to Elizabethtown and started visiting nail salons.
“It took only three stops,” White said. “I saw her and she saw me, and we had a reunion.”
“I brought the ring and offered it back to her. She said, ‘Absolutely not.’”
But White has a plan.
“She just married, so I’ll wait until she has her first daughter and then I’ll give the ring to her daughter.”
That connection to her students is a White hallmark. Over the years, she has taught students from dozens of countries – from Iraq to Brazil, Ethiopia to Indonesia.
“She creates a safe place for her students and opens her heart to them,” Morton Principal Ronda Runyon said. “She has an amazing way to reach all her students.”
Said White: “I create a welcoming place for my students. I have teachable moments all day long. My goal is to make sure students can go home and say they had a good day.”