Be your best: Whitehead’s journey brings blessings

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Ivette Whitehead shares her family’s blessings as the bookkeeper and principal’s secretary at Sara Harp Minter Elementary.

In her dual roles, Whitehead keeps track of every financial move the school makes, along with handling any needs that arise for Principal Dr. Stacie Coppola. She tracks every transaction and schedules substitute teachers. She keeps Dr. Coppola’s schedule and helps plan fun events.

“You know what? It keeps me busy,” joked Whitehead.

Born in Nicaragua, political unrest forced her family from their home. Her father, a prominent lawyer and Christian leader, faced repeated threats on his life and the lives of his family if he did not publicly renounce his faith. On her 13th birthday, they slipped away to the airport, searching for freedom and safety.

“Dad had tears in his eyes,” Ivette remembered of flying away. “He knew we had made it.”

They fled to Guatemala, then to Mexico to stay with Campus Crusade for Christ. After a month there, they settled with family in Miami.

President Ronald Reagan mentioned her father in a speech on the situation in Nicaragua, something Ivette remembers well.

“It’s real neat now telling my girls because we forget in everyday life how we get here and how life here is so different, and we just take it for granted, including myself who actually lived there.”

While Ivette and her siblings adjusted to America quickly, her parents took years to feel settled.

“We were happy. We had chocolate. We had, for the first time, all the goodies of the United States,” she remembered.

While her parents went back a couple years later after it settled down, Ivette has only gone back once.

“Life is here.”

Ivette found a home in Fayette County with her family. Her husband, Daniel, has been a math teacher next door at Whitewater High for 18 years, and their daughters graduated from Whitewater.

They make sure to incorporate Hispanic culture at home, especially with food, to stay in touch with Ivette’s past. She still draws inspiration from the sacrifices her family made. Against all odds, they kept pushing forward and lifting others up along the way.

“It hurts. You shed some tears, but just get back up and help the next person that’s going through it.”

Even though her daughters both graduated out of the school system, she stays because she believes in the work they do. She sees colleagues who treat the students like they are their own children, just like she does.

“I absolutely love the people I work with,” she said. “Every teacher is fully invested in the children.”

Whitehead’s why is setting a strong example. She taught her daughters to appreciate what they do well and not compare themselves to others.

“This is me,” she said. “Do your best in everything you do and treat people with respect.”

 

“The Honor Role,” an official podcast for Fayette County Public Schools, features employees, rotating through key stakeholders, including teachers, staff, nurses, custodians, cafeteria workers, and bus drivers. Join us as we dive in and learn about their journeys, their inspirations, and their whys.

Episodes are available on all major podcast platforms, including Spotify and Apple Podcasts, and promoted on the social media channels of Fayette County Public Schools.

Episodes will also be available here: https://www.buzzsprout.com/2200811.