“Everyone has that one teacher that changed their life. Mine was Mrs. White."


Allie Nation

When she entered 7th grade at Choctaw Middle School in Choctaw, Oklahoma, 13-year-old Allie Nation was already almost six feet tall.

“I’ve always been super tall and super awkward,” says Allie. “I was the energetic, awkward person.”

Reflecting on that time of her life, Allie felt like she had plenty of bullies—but not many friends. That changed when she met science teacher Tracy White.

In fact, Allie felt an instant connection the first time she ever set foot in White’s classroom. “I walked in and I kid you not,” says Allie, “I literally thought to myself, ‘I’m going to like this teacher; this is going to be my favorite teacher.’ She was so sweet. She acknowledged me.” 

But Allie’s middle school journey got off to a rocky start. “At the beginning of the year, I would get really scared. I wouldn’t want to go to school,” Allie says. “It was a hard year for her,” recalls White.

The other girls bullied Allie about her height and her clothes. It got so bad that one day, Allie took refuge during lunch in White’s classroom. After enjoying a meal in peace, Allie returned again the next day; it became a regular thing as Allie ate her lunch and then helped White in the classroom doing busy work. During their time together, White supported Allie’s individuality and encouraged her to look past the bullies. She told her, “You wear what you like. There are going to be people your whole life who won’t like what you wear, or who you are.” Allie recalls, “She not only taught me how to ignore the bullies, but forgive them.”

After surviving 7th grade, Allie continued to return to White’s classroom in her 8th grade year to help out, making copies for her favorite teacher or doing other odd jobs.

White also tutored Allie during those times. “She was a very, very big help when it came to my schooling,” says Allie. “I listened to her. My mom absolutely loved it because I would do my schoolwork.”

It’s high praise for a teacher that almost wasn’t.

“You go home and you worry about your kids going through a crisis. You hope they’re going to be ok.”


Tracy White

“I actually started out as an accounting major, then a dietician,” laughs White about her early college years. But in her junior year, she switched majors to education and decided to become a teacher. In 1997, she entered the classroom.  

For 20 years, White taught lower grades before switching to middle school.  

“Seventh graders are just a special group of kids,” she says. “They’re not the youngest at the school, they’re not the oldest. They are really just trying to find their way.”

She connects with students by bringing her personal experiences, including living abroad while her father served in the military, into her classroom. She even introduced her elementary school students to her parents. “My dad came several times and presented to my class. He was a marshall and would bring them badges and teach them about Oklahoma history. They wore those little badges proudly!” she laughs.

White is also involved in several clubs and committees. She is the team leader on the Science Curriculum committee, tutors after school, and sponsors The Swarm, a student-produced weekly video program. The five-minute program is anchored by two students and provides sports scores, interviews with community members, announcements, and upcoming special events.  

White says it’s a great experience for the students like one young girl who, at first, was so shy she barely spoke. But working in the environment gave her the confidence to be in front of the camera. “I was so proud of her. That was so out of character for her. And she did it!”  

White says she encourages her students to join clubs and activities like the Swarm to connect with other kids who have similar interests. “It’s so important to find those clubs and people,” she says. “Those connections are so important.”

For a teacher so devoted to her students, even White has hard days; she’s constantly reflecting on how to do more.

“The hard days are when you feel like you have not met their needs. You kinda beat yourself up,” she says. “You weren’t able to help every child. You rethink a lot of things.”

“You go home and you worry about your kids going through a crisis. You hope they’re going to be ok.” She worries about them even when it’s out of her hands.

"I love being a teacher and wouldn’t choose any other profession."


Tracy White

During middle school, Allie loved spending time in her favorite teacher’s class, but things changed when she moved on to high school.

Allie ditched class, didn’t do her school work, and barely passed her freshman year. Without an anchor like White, she drifted. “I just really didn’t care about anything,” she says. 

By her junior year, Allie’s parents enrolled her in a military-type school called the Thunderbird Challenge Program to try to set her back on track. There, her favorite teacher once again came to her rescue.

“When you go to military school, you need a mentor,” explains Allie. “The very first person who popped into my head was Mrs. White.”

“I remember calling her and I started crying. ‘I really messed up the past two years,’” she told her 7th grade teacher.

White didn’t hesitate and agreed to mentor Allie for the six months she was in the school.

“I was her mentor for that and I would go up to her school and take her out,” says White.

“Prior (the town) is far away!” says Allie. “She made that drive at least three times” to visit her former student. The two also wrote letters and kept in close touch during this period.

With White’s support, Allie made such tremendous strides that she was able to return to her original high school and graduate on time with her class this past May.

On graduation day, Allie walked the halls of her school in her cap and gown, proud of how much she had overcome with the support of her favorite teacher.

And then she, like so many other high schoolers, posted a video on TikTok.

“Everyone has that one teacher that changed their life,” she posted, “Mine was Mrs. White…”

Allie’s video went on to detail the ways White had changed her life, ending with a heartfelt message of thanks:  “I could not have made it this far without her and I will always be thankful for her and all of the time and effort she put into shaping me into the person I am today.”

Allie’s Tik Tok got an astonishing 1.5 million views and over 143,000 likes. 

White was profoundly moved by Allie’s tribute. “I cried the first time I saw her video, just like I did when I saw her coming up the hall [graduation] day,” says White. “All of her hard work had paid off! She was graduating!”

"I will always be thankful for her and all of the time and effort she put into shaping me into the person I am today."


Allie Nation

But Allie even went a step further, nominating White for the Honored National Teaching Award.  “It was my way of giving back to her,” says Allie, who, even after graduating and getting a job, still finds time to visit her favorite teacher’s classroom at least twice a month.

For her part, White is grateful for her teaching community. “I am so thankful for the principals, staff, teachers, and students that I have worked with for these 27 years.”  She also credits her fiancé, Robbie King, and children, Abbie, Alex, and Aaron, for providing unconditional support, and her parents, for laying the foundation for her success: “I am who I am because of the example [my parents] set for me. They taught me that you have to put in hard work and give it everything you have.”

As she reflects on her career, White says, “I get to teach science, my passion, and see the excitement when my students are learning and having fun at the same time. I am truly blessed to have the life I have.” 

But the approximately 3,500 students White estimates she has taught in her career might argue that they are the ones who have been blessed. “I love being a teacher and wouldn’t choose any other profession,” White says. “I never feel like it’s a job. I put in all this work, I’m just so thankful it’s what I get to do. I have been so blessed that I get to go someplace where it might not be the highest paying job, but your life will be so different if you love what you do.”

 

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