A science teacher at Lakeside High School strives to make a difference in every one of her students' lives.
This is the first year Whitney Major has taught physical science and physics at Lakeside, but she said she plans to stay. She will attend training this summer to be able to start teaching the Intro to Engineering program at the high school.
"Before I ever started teaching, I wanted to be a chemical engineer and that was my goal," she said.
While attending Louisiana Tech University, her career path changed courses after she married and became pregnant. After losing the baby at 36 weeks, she said she decided to take some time off "because engineering is such a hard-core program."
Instead, she decided to take a few education courses and planned to continue her engineering courses later.
"But I never went back," she said. "But I have tons of hours and tons of experience. And so to be able to step into that role and allow those characteristics to come forth and teach others about how to do it, I'm definitely excited about that."
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Science has been a passion for Major since she attended Hampton High School thanks to a teacher she had, Gerald Stevens.
"He passed away eight weeks ago," Major said. "He was such a great influence in my life and I knew I wanted to be that for somebody, but he always pushed me to do more. He was like, 'Oh, you're too good to be a teacher.' So, that's why I went into engineering because I was like, 'Well, that's the next level.' He made me really love chemistry."
Major went on to receive a degree in Chemistry Education and has been teaching for eight years.
Stevens "had this university idea of his classroom," Major said. "Because it was such a small school district, they called it 'G40 University.' And so, if you could pass through G40 University, then you could do anything. And two or three days before he passed away, he had said, 'You know, I've seen some of the projects that you're doing. I remember doing those with y'all.'
"I use some of those same activities that I even learned at high school to teach my kids now. I said, 'Don't worry, I'll bring G40 University to Hot Springs and keep the memory alive.' And it wasn't a few days later, he had passed away," she said.
"So, it was almost like he was like, 'OK, I can let go now because you've got this.'"
A native of Hampton, Morgan moved to the Hot Springs area to be closer to her family, she said. She taught at Lake Hamilton High School for four years before moving to Lakeside.
Her stepfather, who she said she calls her father, moved to the Hot Springs area to become a principal at Lake Hamilton around 2010. Not long after, her mother and brother followed in the move.
"When the opportunity arose for me to be at a school district that was long-term and not short-term, I jumped on it and I've enjoyed it," she said.
Major serves the Lakeside School District as more than just a teacher. She is also certified to drive a school bus and has been driving buses for around five years, she said.
"I did not want to drive a bus," she said. "Despised it. But my entire family, they all have their CDL and they kept saying, 'It's a great way to make some extra money as a teacher and it's only an hour in the mornings and an hour in the afternoons, give or take, depending on your route.'
It was her father's influence that convinced her to drive a bus as the principal at Lake Hamilton. The shortage of bus drivers also influenced her to finally agree, she said.
Although she drives children of all ages on the bus, she said she prefers teaching teenagers.
"I think with teenagers, you can form a different relationship," she said. "I don't want to say it's almost like a parent relationship because some of them really do see me as -- like, they call me their physics mom or their science mom."
Not only does she strive to make an impact in her students' lives, but Major says her students continuously make an impact in hers.
"I can name so many students who've made an impact on me and the way I teach, the way I do things," she said. "I bring them in so much with the content and I make sure that they're involved with whatever we're doing whether it's a lab or an activity or anything. And so they make a huge impact and usually it's them coming back, but I'm so glad that they do."