Christina Bearden-White encourages her students to feel like they are part of history.
Bearden-White, an assistant professor of History at South Plains College, graduated from Johnston City High School in Southern Illinois. She was a student at community colleges for a few years after high school, which had surprised her because she claims that she was not a very good student.
Bearden-White had still needed to choose a major, which was an issue only because, “I wanted to do everything,” she said.
Bearden-White decided to drop out for a short time, until deciding on Psychology as her major. She needed the money to pay for college, so she joined the Air Force in time to take part in Operation Desert Storm in Iraq.
“I was a very shy person before I joined the military,” she explains. “All of the confidence course stuff really helped. I became very confident in what I could do.”
Bearden-White says that she needed to challenge herself to go farther, so she took college classes in pursuit of her psychology degree while she was in military service.
“I didn’t get a degree in psychology.” she said.
After the military, she ended up working at a prison for six years, where she had realized that, “People just had no understanding of their place in history.”
So she says that she decided to go back to school, and eventually work in a museum. Bearden-White had not considered teaching, and it wasn’t something that she went back to graduate school to do.
“Once I go into graduate school, I found out I had other talents,” she said.
Bearden-White was the first person in her family to go to college. One of the ways she helped pay for her tuition was getting a job as a teaching assistant. She found that she really enjoys working with students.
Bearden-White says that history is a performance.
“If you don’t engage students on that level, you’re not ever going to engage them,” she explains, adding that people want to be entertained, and history itself is pretty entertaining.
“Part of it is to get students to feel like they are a part of history,” said Bearden-White, “so I work really hard to talk to my students as if they are part of the conversation.”
Bearden-White says that her favorite part of her job is getting to know the students. She insists that her door is open for any student who may need to talk to her, whether it is about school, personal problems, grades, or sharing dog pictures.
“Getting to help students along the way is very rewarding,” she says. “That one to one is the best part.”
Bearden-White still researches, writes, and publishes in her field. One thing that makes her proud is when people respond to her work. She once wrote a piece about German-American candy makers, including one of the founders who hailed from Belleville, Illinois. Eventually, his descendants changed the name of the company to “Jelly Belly.” These German-Americans had made Candy Corn very popular.
Bearden-White once received an email from a school teacher in Germany who taught at Ramstein Air Force Base.
“He had no idea that I was former Air Force, and he told me how much his students got out of the article,” she said. “That made me so happy that he used something of mine in a grade school, and took the time to write me about it.”
Bearden-White had interviewed all around Texas, sending around 60 job applications to other colleges looking for work.
“That’s not on the high end either,” she says.
Finally, she had interviewed at South Plains College.
“The people here at SPC were the nicest I had met,” recalls Bearden-White. “They went out of their way to make sure I was welcome here, even though there were other people to interview too. I remember coming home and telling my husband, ‘They were just too nice.’”
Bearden-White took the job at SPC, which was good for her husband as well since there were plenty of places to work. Dr. Roy Bearden-White was hired as an instructor in the English Department.
“The weird thing was that everyone really WAS that nice,” Bearden-White explains. ”Everyone was saying a lot about the SPC family, but they really do make you feel like you are part of that family.”
Bearden-White and her husband have since purchased a home, and they are determined to stay part of the SPC family.
“Even my son works here now,” Bearden-White said. “It has felt like this has been our academic home since we first got here.”