READY: Old teachers love success stories

Staff Writer
The Destin Log
Mary Ready

Since I retired as an English teacher at Choctawhatchee High School, it’s been a special blessing to remain in contact with former students who’ve made good lives for themselves and their families. Lawyers, doctors, published authors, CEO’s, architects, engineers, as well as not so prominent, yet good citizens. Many of my former students may not have advanced degrees, but work hard for an honest living and are assets to their communities. They are also “success stories” to me.

I once promised a former Log editor that I would avoid the 3 P’s: Poetry, Pornography, and Politics. Occasionally I violate the poetry promise, and only once in 17 years did I advocate for a political candidate. He lost.

I’ll make this more about the Lamar White that I know as a person and not so much a candidate for school board even though I do have one of his campaign signs in my yard, swaying haphazardly in the breeze after someone ran over it.

Early in his campaign, I sent him a small contribution and received a handwritten thank you note prepared just as I had taught him when he and his wife were sweet young students in my Advanced Grammar class. He wrote, in part:

“Connie and I are so grateful to you for so much. You were our teacher, and I remember your kindness to us when we were just children. Later, you were again kind and supportive of us when we became fellow teachers at Choctawhatchee. And our son was blessed to have you as a teacher as well. I understand you are going through some trying times. We are prayerful for you. Frank was also our friend and colleague too at Fort Walton High, and we so admired and loved him. Affectionately, Lamar”

Impeccable grammar and not a misspelled word!

If you read his campaign material, you will note that Lamar White has a Doctor of Education and has served as principal of “A” schools, teacher, coach, school administrator, mentor for new principals, and adjunct professor at UWF. He’s even used his gift as an educator to teach Sunday school. His other accomplishments and awards are too numerous to list here. He has lived in Okaloosa County since 1961, and his wife Connie and his mom Mary are both retired Okaloosa teachers.

Just as he demonstrated in my English class, he has a strong work ethic and a sense of personal responsibility for getting a task done. That’s my favorite thing to say about former students who, like Lamar, have made me so proud that I had some tiny part in who they became.

 Connie, who is my friend, fellow retired English teacher, and once a student sitting beside her boyfriend Lamar in my class, shared some personal details about her husband.

She loves him for putting gas in her car, so she doesn’t have to do it. He’s also a “checker,” turning back to the house after a trip has already begun to be sure the stove is off, the doors are locked and the garage door is shut.

He’s a great father to their son Ben and to his daughter-in-law Bethany. He’s also a loving co-parent to their Yorkies.

During hurricane season, he establishes a “command center,” consisting of recliner, flashlight, phone, batteries, and remote control.

When Connie has a pet caretaker job at night, he drives her and waits in the car until she’s done.

She remembers how he worked for three months at Eglin BX to buy her engagement ring. In their 44 years of marriage, they have rarely been apart. 

At home and at work, he does not tolerate budget deficits.

In addition to being a techno-whiz, he loves tennis, football, mentoring young athletes, playing guitar, and worshipping with his family at St. Simon’s Episcopal Church.

Most endearing is Connie’s revelation that her husband is a modest and humble man. She said “It’s difficult for him to put himself out there.”

Apparently that speech class at Pryor Middle School (where he and Connie first met as kids) prepared him for public speaking and gave him the confidence as a school board candidate to “put himself out there.”

Political candidate aside, I just wanted to tell you about a beloved former student. Lamar White is one of those success stories who continue to bless teachers long after their classroom days are over.

Lamar and Connie White are two of my favorite memories of those days.

Mary Ready of Destin is a twice-retired English teacher and long-time area resident. Her columns are published on Saturdays.