Interview with Norma White

Norma White was interviewed by Adam Portoghese on April 12, 2012.

Norma White grew up in Reidsville, North Carolina, on a tobacco farm with her mother, father, and sister. Her family employed several African-Americans to work the farm, and Norma grew up in an atmosphere of racial understanding. When integration later came, she needed no time to adjust. She attended Wake Forest University and majored in math. She became a teacher after college, and taught in a number of different locations due to her willingness to follow her husband’s changing career path. Her husband, Alan White, played football in Canada after college, but they soon made their way back to the United States to pursue careers in teaching.  After several more moves throughout the South, Alan became the athletic director at Elon University, and Norma settled into Burlington teaching at Western Alamance High School. She and Alan had a son, who also ended up going to Wake Forest. He is now married and has a child of his own who is now looking at colleges.

On Career Options

Norma spoke of the career possibilities available to women at the time of her graduation from Wake Forest.

You either became a teacher, a social worker, or you could major in business. There were not many options. So I thought, “I will be a teacher, and I am going to stay here. And I will think about nursing later.” I majored in math, and I really had as many hours in science just in case, but I never really thought that I’d have a career. I never really thought I would do that. Because [the way] I grew up, my mother worked in the home, and I just never thought I would do anything. But this was great; I was growing up.

Listen to the audio of Norma’s response about her career choices.

On Teaching

Norma described motivation and passion she found in the teaching.

It was good, challenging. But what I realized was that I loved the students and my subject was just the vehicle to get to work with these students. I would have never been able to if I had not had something to teach them. But my passion was the student. I mean it. I taught the subject because I wanted to do a good a job. I took a lot of pride in what I did and I worked very hard. But at the end of the day it was the student that I just loved. And I keep up with them.

Listen to the audio of Norma’s response about her experiences teaching.

On Values

Norma placed faith as one of the four central themes of her life.

I guess my whole life has been faith: faith in God. I have a strong faith in God, and involvement in my church. My Bible study too. We go to Franklin Street Methodist Church, but the church is a whirl. No matter who I am meeting with we talk about God.

Listen to the audio excerpt about Norma’s faith.

On Humor

From the start it was clear Norma liked to laugh and its value to her daily life.

Humor: You know I have given you four things that I just think in life that just keeps you energized. Finding laughter. Everything is not funny, I know that. But you can get it a way, and [my friend] Jeanne has been a humorist. I see her doing this – finding humor in stressful situations [Laughs], and she can find it. Now there are times in life that everything is not funny, for sure, and that is common sense. But if you just look at things a little differently….

Listen to the audio about humor.

On Tobacco Farming

While at Wake Forest, Norma began to reflect on her family’s livelihood in new ways.

Growing up on the tobacco/vegetable farm, I did not like that. I did not like working in tobacco. I did not think that it was morally good. It was a bad thing. I didn’t know a lot about ethics, but going to Wake Forest I learned a lot of things [Laughing] that we never talked about. But I knew that was how we made money, and it was a good life.

Listen to the audio of Norma’s reflection.

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