First-Generation Grad Turned Educator of the Year

After losing her factory job, Retha McGuire knew an education was the only way to make ends meet.

May 1, 2013

     As a working mother of one, Retha McGuire wasn’t sure how she was going to make it after her employer shut down. But with a little encouragement from professors at Patrick Henry Community College, she became a first-generation college graduate and a Pittsylvania County Educator of the Year.

     After graduating from high school, McGuire explained how she “wanted to teach, but no one in my family had ever graduated. We had no money, no means.”

     She quickly found a job in textiles. “I always wanted to go back to school, but I was making money – I got comfortable,” she explained. “But then the mill closed.”

     Luckily for McGuire, representatives from PHCC came to the mill for testing to help displaced workers create a new path for themselves. She enrolled in classes in 1996, receiving a scholarship that helped pay for her tuition and books.

     “When I was younger, education wasn’t in reach,” McGuire said. “But there are so many opportunities. If anyone has a long-term goal, they just have to seek the means and do it.”

     And that she did.

     As she worked at night and attended classes during the day, many times sleeping in the car before class to catch up on sleep, her mother-in-law took care of her daughter.

     “I didn’t even know how to turn a computer on when I started,” McGuuire recalled. “But I was finally making my dreams come true.”

"There are so many opportunities. If anyone has a long-term goal, they just have to seek the means and do it."
     She graduated in 1998 with a degree in business administration and found a part-time job at a CPA firm. Unexcited by her desk job, she sought something more active. McGuire transferred her two-year degree to Old Dominion University and “fell right into the education program.”

     In 2003, after two years of long-distance learning, she graduated from ODU and has been teaching ever since.

     “I love what I do – it’s active, and I just love it!” McGuire gushed.

     She currently teaches pre-kindergarten at Twin Springs Elementary in Danville, and for her hard work and enthusiasm, the Danville Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce honored her with the Pittsylvania County’s Educator of the Year award.

     “It takes just one person to encourage you to take the next step,” McGuire said. For her, the teachers at PHCC “fueled that fire back in me.”

     The roles have been somewhat reversed and McGuire is now extolling the advantages of a quality education to her daughter, who is now in her second year of clinicals in the nursing program at PHCC.