Thelma Mothershed Wair attended Little Rock Central High School for her junior year. Since Governor Faubus closed all of Little Rock’s high schools the following year to prevent integration, Wair attended summer school and took correspondence courses to earn the credits necessary for a high school diploma. She then earned her Bachelor of Arts in Home Economics, her Master of Science in Guidance and Counseling Education, and an administrative certificate in Education at Southern Illinois University. Wair then spent 28 years of her career as a home economics teacher. When reflecting on her time as an educator, Wair stated “I was determined to treat my kids equally” (Wair). This determination likely stemmed from her experiences directly combating unequal treatment of students. She also taught survival skills to women at a Red Cross homeless shelter and worked at a juvenile detention center.
Wair has received recognition for her teaching and involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. She was recognized as an Outstanding Role Model by the Top Ladies of Distinction in east St. Louis and the early childhood/pre-kindergarten of her school district. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People awarded her the Spingarn Medal. She also earned the Congressional Gold Medal, which she received from President Clinton. Both as a student and a teacher, Thelma Mothershed Wair embodies the concept of equality in schools.
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If you would like to learn more about your rights or believe that you have been discriminated against please visit the Civil Rights Justice Center located at 2150 N. 107th Street in Seattle Washington or visit our website at civilrightsjusticecenter.com