California Correctional Academic Instructor Rachel Whitfield was recently recognized for her decades of service to education with the KSBW Crystal Apple Award. Employed at the Correctional Training Facility (CTF) in Soledad, Calif., her dedication to stimulating minds and improving students’ lives has contributed to a better community.
Raised in Texas during the time of Jim Crow laws, she attended a one-room school where the driving theme was “college bound.” As an African-American child, she was raised during a time when libraries, bookstores and new school books were not allowed in traditionally black neighborhoods. Still, she excelled in school and said she loved the process of learning. In 1968, she graduated from Philander Smith College, a historically black college or university (HBCU) in Little Rock, Ark.
During that time, California’s Monterey Peninsula Unified School District (MPUSD) established a racial recruitment program because of the concerns of many of the African-American military families. MPUSD sent an educational scout to HBCUs to recruit highly qualified teachers to assist in integrating the schools in Monterey and Seaside. She was one of three African-American teachers hired at Monterey High School.
After teaching over 30 years in the Monterey school district, Whitfield retired but couldn’t resist the drive to teach. In 2006, she found her calling as part of the Office of Correctional Education, and has applied her decades of public education experience to teaching the incarcerated population.