Teresa Webster is featured as on of the 2021 Women of Influence. She is Vice President of Instruction at Mississippi Delta Community College.
What you your full title and position?
Vice President of Instruction (which encompasses the College of Academics, College of Career-Technical and Adult Education, College of Health Sciences, eLearning, Dual Enrollment, Library, and the MDCC Greenwood Center) and Academic Business department chair
What is your educational background?
• Graduate of MDJC with an associate of arts degree.
• Bachelor of science in education with major in business education from Delta State University.
• Master of education in educational administration with graduate hours in computer information systems from Delta State University.
• Taught high school business classes for Southern Baptist Educational Center in Olive Branch (now Northpoint Christian School) for 4.5 years.
• Taught at Amherst Career Center in Greenwood for .5 year.
• Taught various business/computer courses in the Business and Office Technology department for MDCC for 3 years.
• Taught computer science in the Academic Business department for MDCC for 22 years.
• Completing five years of being vice president of instruction at the end of June for a total of 30 years at MDCC.
Describe when you first knew that you wanted to work in the education field.
I knew when I was in the third grade that I would be some kind of teacher and never really wavered! To this day, I believe it was a calling from God. Sometime during my high school senior year, I had a conversation with my brother who was 13 years my senior and who was having an extremely successful career with Mississippi Land Bank; therefore, I coveted his opinion.
He asked what I wanted to do, and I explained that I wanted to teach but did not know what.
He asked what I liked. I told him that I loved my high school business courses and my teachers. He said, “Well, major in business education!”
That is exactly what I did! I was one of those students who went to college knowing their major and finished the degree in the same major that was started in four years; consequently, I was fortunate enough to have two children who did the same thing!
How did you come to work for MDCC?
Well, that too, was straight from the Lord! My husband and I were living in Memphis early in our marriage, and I was teaching for a Christian school.
He was working for FedEx at the time. He took a transfer to the Greenwood area.
We both grew up in Clarksdale and our families still lived there so we knew with a 1-year-old we still would not be far from them.
We had lived the big-city life and wanted to return to a slower pace. We moved in the middle of the school year, so I accepted a job at a proprietary business school in Greenwood teaching business courses, and oh, did I learn a lot the next six months.
I taught myself so much computer software in preparation for teaching those courses. Then, a position came open that summer at MDCC in the Business and Office Technology department in the Career-Technical division.
Upon the recommendation of Ms. Elizabeth Cummings and Ms. Mary Ellen Holloway, I got an interview with the legendary Mr. Charles P. Foley, Dean of Career-Technical Education. After my conversation with him, he took me over to meet the president, Dr. David Powe.
Upon returning to Mr. Foley’s office, we conversed some more.
He started talking more about the job, and I finally asked, “Do I have the job?” He said, “Yes!”
Those were the days before interview committees!!
Little did I know that the six months of teaching at that business school had truly prepared me for my next educational stop—MDCC.
I truly love MDCC and all of the jobs that I have had while there. In the past I taught College and Career Sunday School class, and I would tell them that my prayer for them was to find a job that they were passionate about and could not wait to get up and go to work the next day. It has been 30 years, and it still feels that way for me! In reflection, it was all a part of God’s plan for my career in education.
What are some ways in which you try to influence the women that you encounter each day, whether it be your coworkers or aspiring young women students?
Since I have been Vice President of Instruction, there have been several women who have worked under my leadership whom I have tapped to find their inner leadership skills and step out of their comfort zone and take a position in administration.
During my five years in this position, I have been able to help select deans, coordinators, and chairs who have largely been women and who are still serving today. I try my best to be their cheerleader and let them know that they can do this!
Also, I believe in getting in there and doing things with them and not just turning them loose without any guidance.
Right after I became VP, we were tasked with writing three small Mississippi Community College Board grants for new CTE programs in just three weeks. One of my leaders was a veteran, but the other one was brand new.
I was there for both of them whether it was collecting data and research or formatting. We did it, and guess what? We received all three of the grants that year valued at over one million dollars! That was truly team work, and all written by women.
Who are some of your biggest women influencers? Why?
My earliest woman influencer was my mother.
She was a homemaker with only a high school education who became a widow with four children when she was 39 years old, and I was only five.
She worked as many as four part-time jobs to make ends meet. I took all of this in from an early age, and this allowed me to embrace being an independent woman and thinker.
There were many times with no man around the house, that we made do and did things for ourselves so as not to have to bother anyone for help.
But God always provided and most people probably did not realize how little we did have.
That woman could stretch a dollar further than anyone I have ever known! She passed away the year before I became VP.
Then, after I arrived at MDJC, I was recognized for my academic record and inherent leadership skills that I did not realize I had.
But, Ms. Mary Ellen Holloway and Ms. Patsy Dowell were both my instructors and Phi Beta Lambda advisors and advised me to run for office.
I served as secretary my freshman year and president my sophomore year among other leadership roles in other organizations.
I continued to stay in contact with Ms. Holloway through the years. Once I started work at MDCC, I became a Phi Beta Lambda advisor with my mentor, Ms. Holloway!
Although she is no longer with us, she lived to see me become Vice President of Instruction. I pray I relayed to her how much of a part she had in my rising to this position. I will forever be grateful to her, Ms. Dowell, and other MDJC instructors like Ms. Brenda Grubb.
I knew I would love to be them one day and become an instructor at MDJC, but I had no idea I would ever be afforded the opportunity.
What are some initiatives you would like to start or address that could make young women in our area more successful?
A local leadership program geared toward advancing women in our educational and business community would be an initiative that I would like to see come to fruition (maybe a retirement project!)
Women need to be recognized for their inner strength, job passion, and intelligence—just to name a few traits. A women’s leadership institute would encompass ideas such as problem solving, confidence, innovative thinking, and creativity.
Having ladies recognize these characteristics and helping them capitalize upon them would be a chance to pay forward what Ms. Holloway and Ms. Dowell did for me when I was just a teenager.