~Constance White Richardson~
Educational Leader, Bertie County Schools
(Retired Director of More At Four-Title I Program)
Constance (known fondly as, Connie) White Richardson is a veteran educational leader who has devoted over 46 years to impacting the lives of students in Bertie County. After retiring in 2011, she continued to exercise her passion to educate through contractual work with the district for approximately five years. Connie is very humble in recounting her contributions, professionally and personally, however, in conversation, and in addition to the interview questions, she shared these accolades: Administrator of the Year, Teacher of the Year, Outstanding Citizen of the Year (awarded in 2003 by the Windsor/Bertie County Chamber of Commerce), Family of the Year Award (by the Lott Carey Baptist Foreign Mission Convention). The latter award is so intriguing, as it was awarded to a farm family with nine out of the ten children who attended college. What an accomplishment for black families during that time, or even now! Connie is married to another phenomenal educator, John William Richardson, Jr. They are parents to two sons, John and Jason. She is also a 1965 graduate of my alma mater, Winston-Salem State University, where she majored in Elementary Education, minoring in History---Ram Pride! Connie is an extraordinary human being, and an expert in educational theories. She has passed the torch in preparing leaders in Education; however, she is still leading in the hearts and minds of those she touched through her work. Constance White Richardson is Bertie Black History, and we are extremely proud.
TCV1: What community did you grow up in as a Bertie County youngster?
CR1: I grew up in the Luella Community, near Lewiston/Woodville. I still live in the same family home that my husband and I renovated. I’ve lived on this property since I was born. My father purchased the farmland in 1942, over 80 years ago.
TCV2: What are your first thoughts of life in Bertie?
CR2: Attending Sunday School, Church, enrolling in Elementary School, and working on the farm, where we raised our own vegetables, produce and fruit trees.
TCV3: Why did you decide to become an educator?
CR3: I come from a family of educators. I had five siblings—four sisters and one brother who were educators before I chose the career path. I always admired how they were such a positive influence on the minds of youth.
TCV4: Who was the most influential person who formed that decision?
CR4: My sister, Margaret White Artis, who taught me Math in the 9th and 10th grade. She was the type of teacher that taught children at the appropriate level of difficulty and students were motivated to learn.
TCV5: What is your most memorable experience as an educator? How did it shape you?
CR5: My most memorable experience was when Bertie County Schools afforded me the opportunity to study under the leadership of Dr. Madeline Hunter at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles). Her program focused on Best Practices in Teaching, which included the following steps:
Objectives (what students were expected to learn), Anticipatory Set (the hook that captures the attention of students), Teacher Input, Modeling, Checking for Understanding, Guided Practice, Closure, and Independent Practice (assignments). After completing the program, I returned to Bertie County Schools, and conducted workshops with all teachers and staff, including administrators and Central Office personnel. It shaped me in that I became even more invested in the successful instruction of students.
TCV6: What college(s) did you attend? Why those choices?
CR6: I attended Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) for undergraduate school. I had two sisters and a brother to attend Elizabeth City State University, and I didn’t want to follow in their footsteps. I wanted to make a path of my own. I learned that WSSU had an excellent Education program. East Carolina University (ECU) was my choice for graduate school. I received a Masters in Supervision and Administration. I chose ECU because Greenville, NC was local, and my husband and I were able to attend at the same time. We didn’t’ want to be too far from home with small children. ECU was also a desirable choice because they had an excellent Education and school leaders’ program.
TCV7: How did college prepare you for life—personally?
CR7: College prepared me to think for myself. You can easily be influenced to go in the wrong direction when you don’t have your parents around to advise you. Making the wrong decisions could have resulted in being sent back to Bertie County to farm life, and I knew that was not my choice.
TCV8: What did working with students teach you?
CR8: All students can learn! They, simply, don’t learn at the same pace and have different learning styles. Therefore, you must teach children as individuals and you certainly must have the patience to start working with them “where they are,” so that they can experience success in learning.
TCV9: What professional accomplishments are you most proud of?
CR9: Being an educational leader, I was afforded the opportunity to reopen C.G. White and Askewville Schools for the More At Four Program. This Title I program received a Five Star Child Care License from the State of North Carolina, Division of Child Development. This is the highest rating available for Pre-K programs, and was a first (5-Star rating) for Bertie County Schools. Emphasis was placed on Education and Program Standards, and I had a very capable staff at both sites to make this a dream for the communities and the school district. Also, I was assigned the task of creating a team of teachers from Bertie County to assist other teachers from Bertie, Northampton, Hertford, Weldon, and Warren counties in passing the National PRAXIS Exam in their subject area. The training was a tremendous success, as more than 100 teachers met the requirements to become certified in their content area. Another accomplishment that I am exceptionally proud of, is one of my 1st grade students at West Bertie Elementary School is now leading the school district as Superintendent of Bertie County Schools, Dr. Otis Smallwood.
TCV10: What are two words that sum up your career in Education?
CR10: Grateful (for the opportunity to successfully serve); Blessed (in many ways, and especially blessed to have a devoted husband who has always been a huge supporter of my goals and ambitions).
TCV11: What words of wisdom do you have for today’s educators or those who are considering the profession?
CR11: I would encourage young people to pursue the field of Education because it gives them an opportunity to mold and shape the minds of our youngsters. The decision will be rewarding, knowing that you made a difference in the lives of those you encountered—those who you were blessed to instruct.
TCV12: What advice would you give young boys/girls that would motivate and inspire them to accomplish their goals?
CR12: Keep your eyes on the prize, and don’t allow bad decisions to deter you.
TCV13: Your favorite quote?
CR13: Philippians 4:13 -- I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
TCV14: Today, I am grateful for________. (One or more words)
CR14: Health, Family, Faith in God
TCV15: What do you want your legacy to be?
CR15: That I have been a CHAMPION for Education; I have made a positive impact on children and the lives of others.
Proof that her influence has been powerful and it lives on.....
"Mrs. Richardson was my first grade teacher at West Bertie Elementary. She inspired me to work hard and strive to be the best! She has been my mentor since I left her class many years ago. She encouraged me to attend our alma mater, Winston-Salem State University!!"
Bertie High School, Class of 1982
"Mrs. Richardson has nurtured me and taken care of me since teaching me in 1st grade. She's always been only a phone call away, from my K-12 years, college, the beginning of my career and right now as superintendent. She is one of my number one cheerleaders and one of the major reasons I'm the educator that I am today. If I could have another mom, she definitely would be the one! I love her!!"
~Dr. Otis L. Smallwood
Bertie High School, Class of 1989