Sixteen years ago, on the day that her music class was scheduled to put on its school play, Jane Waldrop — then a sixth grade student at Wolftrap Elementary School — decided to pay a visit to her music teacher Linda White.
"I remember I went down there before school to say ‘hi’ and see how she was doing," said Waldrop, who is now a music teacher at Clearview Elementary School. "Later I got a note from her saying, 'thanks for coming down to see me and calm me down,' and I just thought that was so nice of her."
Twenty years later, it was Linda White's turn to receive a note from Waldrop.
"I got a note from her the other day that said 'you're an inspiration, and are one of the main reasons why I am a music teacher,' and it just made me so happy," said White, who is currently a music teacher at Haycock Elementary School in McLean. "It's just really rewarding to know that you've made a difference in someone's life."
It is lasting personal impacts such as this that help to explain why, next month, Linda White will be one of five teachers to be inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame. Although White knew that she had been nominated by a colleague, she was shocked to learn that she had been chosen for the honor. White was given the news at a surprise ceremony held at Haycock Elementary School.
"It just made me feel really good," said White, who has been teaching for 24 years. "I'm just so pleased and I think this is really great for music. I've always felt like music should be a good part of the curriculum, and this is just validation that what we do is meaningful."
The National Teachers Hall of Fame was founded in Emporia, Kan. in 1989 to honor elementary and secondary teachers. Nominees must be certified public or private schoolteachers, active or retired, with at least 20 years of experience in teaching grades K-12. White will be inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame in a five-day ceremony that will take place in both Emporia and in Washington, D.C.
Jane Waldrop was fortunate to have White as a music teacher at Wolftrap Elementary from second through sixth grades.
"She just cares so much about her kids," said Waldrop. "I was in chorus with her and loved it, and it's because of her that I continued chorus throughout the rest of my schooling, and then went on to get a degree in music education."
Waldrop, who has been teaching for five years, said she still finds herself using some of the lessons she learned from White so long ago.
"I still use the '50 Nifty United States' which she taught me," said Waldrop. "I tell my students that I have never forgotten all the states and their capitals because of this song. I can still sing the songs that she taught us, and I've stayed in touch with some friends that went to Wolftrap [Elementary], and we still talk about her class."
WHITE ALWAYS KNEW that she wanted to be a teacher. Pure chance caused her to end up with the same teacher in the fourth, fifth and sixth grades. That teacher ended up becoming a lifelong mentor and friend.
"She was really special and I think that's why I even thought of being a teacher in the first place," said White.
Music came naturally as she had been taking piano lessons since the age of 7. White said she enjoys teaching because she likes to watch her students learn.
"I like seeing the kids' wheels turn when they get excited about creating things ... and I really like the ensemble aspect of it — the working together," said White. "I think it's something that we all strive for, and it's something that the kids use long after they've graduated from high school."
White has taught middle school, elementary school and pre-school, but said she is particularly fond of teaching at the elementary school level.
"They're just so excited about everything," she said.
White is inspired by everything and everyone around her.
"I get my ideas from other colleagues, I wake up in the middle of the night with ideas and scribble them down, and a lot of the musicals that I've written lately are the result of working with a buddy of mine over at Wolftrap Elementary," she said.
Her husband, William White, said he is incredibly proud of his wife's achievements, especially since he has "known for a long time that she works extremely hard."
"She's just somebody that people can confide in," he said. "Even teachers come and talk to her because they know it doesn't go any further than her ... she's just one of these people that other people are attracted to because she is so empathetic, and she's just generally a good person. She gets along with everybody."