International Women’s Day: An Interview with the Women of RMA


Emory Pittman, Print Editor

As many people already know, International Women’s Day was celebrated Monday, March 8. Personally, I feel this holiday is an excellent reminder of the strength women show in both big and small ways. Here at Rocky Mount Academy, we have so many wonderful faculty members that remind us every day what it means to be a woman. I asked a few of RMA’s teachers questions about their experiences as women, and I hope that you can learn from them as much as I did.


Q: Who is your female role model, and why?


A:My favorite female role model is definitely Deena Kastor. Many people would probably not recognize who she is by name alone. Deena won the Bronze Medal in the 2004 women’s marathon in Athens, Greece. She holds American records in the marathon and many other distance races. She is also an 8 time national champion in cross country. (Of course, my choice is an ultimately successful runner!)  


Among the many things that I admire about Deena are her wonderful attitude and her sense of continuous gratitude.  She wrote a book titled “Let Your Mind Run” a memoir of how she “thought her way to victory”. As you can imagine, I read this book cover to cover very quickly.  The attributes that resonated with me are her work effort, her determination, her focus, and her persistence, always striving to be her best. She handles setbacks with grace and views them as learning opportunities. I was fortunate to meet Deena Kastor at the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler race in Washington, DC. She is truly an inspiration to me. Deena has an unparalleled drive and fierce determination to be healthy in body, mind, and spirit.” – Mrs. Michelle Meadows


A: At first I thought this is really easy.  Rosa Parks was the answer I usually give when asked this question.  I wish I had gotten to meet her.  She was a woman who stood her own, she was tired and pushed on like so many of her time making changes that have influenced so many others socially and economically.

As I think now, personally Rachel Carson was a great influence on my growth as a teacher.  Her  writing changed so much in this country and the world.  She influenced my teaching and my interests with her books.

But if I am totally honest my Grandmothers and Mothers were my greatest role models.  They taught me not to be afraid of risks or change, to challenge myself to try new things and not to limit myself to the expected.” – Mrs. Kim Lehnes


A: My female role model would be my undergraduate voice teacher, Ellen Williams at Meredith College. Dr. Williams was a voice performance student herself at Meredith College. She has had a broad teaching and performance career, having done both all over the world. When she retired from teaching at Meredith College in 2016, she signed with a talent agency. Now, she travels the US to film movies, music videos, and commercials. She has also helped produce many movies. Dr.Williams is a great example of following your dreams even as they change throughout your life. This is what I admire most about her, and it is a trait I hope to bring along in life with me too.” – Ms. Mary Beth Cameron


Q: What is the best lesson you have learned from your mom?


A: “Choose your battles, and be careful what you wish for.” – Mrs. Genie Andracchio


A: “The best lesson I have learned from my mom is that my position in life does not limit nor define me. Bettering myself starts with me and I cannot rely on anyone else to do it for me. That does not mean that you have to be fully independent though. Having a good support system is very important. Always lend a helping hand and never judge someone off of first impressions. Everyone is human and we all have bad days. You might have met your best friend on their worst day, so always be kind and always show love!” – Ms. Kelsey Holloman


A:One of the most important lessons that I have learned from my mom is that happiness is a choice.  Many people believe that happiness is a result of external factors such as possessions, our personal circumstances, or even what is going on around us, but that is not the case.  My mom became legally blind at the age of 13 due to a rare eye disease, and she never regained her sight.  When I was growing up, I watched her wake up every day and choose joy despite circumstances beyond her control.  I feel certain that doing so was not always easy, but I am so grateful for the modeling of this valuable lesson that I will never forget.” – Mrs. Amanda Harrell


A:The most important lesson that I have learned from my mom is her frequent reminder, “Some days are better than others.” This statement seems to be an obvious and simplistic observation, but it isn’t. It is a reminder that it is unrealistic to expect that everything will go my way, that I will not make mistakes or have regrets, and that I can control all aspects of my life. Suggesting our need as human beings for perspective, patience, resilience, and optimism, the statement has helped me to keep moving forward in difficult times. My mom has both put this idea into words for me and exemplified it in her own life.” – Dr. Daphne O’Brien


Q: How do you hope to inspire and empower your female students?


A: I hope to inspire and empower my female students by giving them room to speak their minds every single day. I like to use the books that we read in class to remind them that their place in this world is wherever they want it to be. I think it’s also really important to establish a sense of community among young women. In the Sisterhood Society, a club we started last year, girls across sixth, seventh, and eighth grade come together to celebrate womanhood and support each other every day. We talk about all of the things that make us distinctly, proudly, boldly, and beautifully, women.” – Ms. Cameron Covolo


A: As a teacher who happens to be female, everything I do is closely related to my womanhood. I try to provide my students an example of feminine strength and leadership in my classes. I have the confidence that they will be inspired to be who they want to be – to laugh at their mistakes, take life as a learning experience and to open their minds to new perspectives. I also hope to inspire my female students  in believing in themselves and making sure that no one feels less than others; my classroom is a place where they can come to feel safe to express their views and opinions and feel comfortable with speaking, not only in and about Spanish, but also about anything else they want to talk about. 


I have a dream that I will be remembered as a person who showed respect for them, loved them unconditionally and took them through a learning path that helped them to become well-rounded and compassionate individuals. Whatever path they will take as a wife, mother, professional – they will bloom with grace, they will feel comfortable to fail and learn from mistakes, because in any of those roads they will be the reason why somebody smiles every day. I genuinely believe that the ripples that they make step by step will raise them to higher lands as they become the people they are destined to be.” Señora Consuelo Forero


A: I utilize art as a tool for young women to freely practice self expression in a safe place. My hope is that this supports them in cultivating self confidence, and empowers them

to go forth and use their voice boldly in every aspect of their lives.” – Mrs. Victoria Hunter


Q: Have you ever had to overcome an obstacle/faced discrimination because of your gender?


A:When I first got out of college as a fashion merchandising major I did an internship with the company Walmart. When the internship was over they hired me to manage their ladieswear department, and I later went on to be a district floor merchandiser. But when I was a department manager at a local store, I was paid hourly as were all the department managers. Some of us were discussing our paychecks and the women realized that the men were making significantly more an hour than women were, for the exact same job. Also none of the men department managers had college degrees as I did. I asked my store manager, also a man, why this was so. And in a very condescending way he said that the men naturally need to be paid more because they had families to support. 


This made me feel very sad for all the single moms who were working for Walmart at that time. Because clearly they were supporting their families.” – Mrs. Dawn Whitehurst


A: “YES I HAVE. I vividly remember when I was in college being asked by an adult what I was majoring in. I shared with them my area of concentration in history. They proceeded to ask me a random very specific question about a person and date from American history, expecting me to be able to answer easily since I was after all a history major:)   When I could not easily recall the event and person, they simply said, “It’s a good thing you are a good looking female so you can get away with that” Since I clearly had no future in history since I couldn’t recall a specific piece of information. I was insulted, embarrassed and mortified.” – Mrs. Hadley Gross