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The Rolla Daily News - Rolla, MO
  • Longtime second-grade teacher at St. Patrick School set to retire

  • When the clock strikes 3:15 p.m. this Friday at St. Patrick School, the book will close on Barbara Whitefield's 31-year teaching career.
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  • When the clock strikes 3:15 p.m. this Friday at St. Patrick School, the book will close on Barbara Whitefield's 31-year teaching career.
    "I've always wanted to be a teacher. I had great teachers growing up in St. Louis," she said.
    She and her family came to Rolla in 1991 as her husband Dr. Philip Whitefield accepted a position in the chemistry department at Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T).
    "It was the best move we made," she told the Daily News.
    Over her 20-plus years at St. Patrick she says she has a soft spot for her second-graders.
    "For a few years, I did teach fourth and fifth grade. It was good. But second grade is my favorite. The kids are angelic and still want to learn," Whitefield said.
    She is convinced that St. Patrick is a hidden gem, waiting to be discovered. She hears it from the teachers at Rolla High School.
    "They tell me that they always know that a student comes from St. Pat's because they have good study habits, they are polite and overall they're good well-rounded students. I like being a part of that and laying that foundation," she said.
    A decade ago, the Whitefields lost their 18-year-old son, Thomas, in a car accident. It was then that she and her family came to truly appreciate how special St. Patrick School, the parish as well as the community were.
    "Monsignor Knox who was the pastor at the time really helped us, and it was as if everyone knew exactly when we needed help."
    Out of that tragedy came the Thomas Whitefield 3-on-3 Soccer Tournament.
    "Thomas was an all-state soccer player at Rolla High and was headed to play in Tampa on a soccer scholarship. We had lots of money come in, in lieu of flowers," Whitefield recalled.
    At first the Whitefields wanted to give money to the soccer program but coach Mike Howard suggested setting up a scholarship program.
    "So we set up this three-on-three tournament to raise money," she explained.
    This year will mark the 11th year for the tournament which takes place at Rolla Lions Club Park.
    "Each year we give out a $1,000 scholarship to a boy and a girl senior," she said. "And we have enough money in the account to last for 30 years."
    In the age of tablets, apps and iPhones, Whitefield confesses that she is "old school" when it comes to teaching.
    "Computers are great and the kids and I love our SMART Board, but it is important to know how to write in cursive and learn your multiplication tables. It is important to get the basics," she said. "That's how I was taught and that is how I teach."
    Page 2 of 2 - She said she will miss her fellow teachers and the students, but said she will still be around. Despite concerns from some worried 8-year olds, she assured her students that she's not moving away.
    While she feels it's the right time to retire, Whitefield knows that come August it will be tough.
    "Aug. 13 is the first day the kids come back to school," she said. "I think it's then that it will really sink in."

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