Linda Perry waited until she raised her children before going back to school for a school for a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Texas Permian Basin.
The mother of three will graduate — with honors — on Saturday with her family watching. Her daughter graduated from Odessa College with honors Friday night, something she will be in attendance for, as well.
Perry will be one of 600 graduates walking the stage at 10 a.m. May 11 at the Midland County Horseshoe Arena and Pavilion.
With her degree, Perry will become a third-grade teacher at Ross Elementary School in the fall.
Currently, she is an inclusion aide at Ross currently and has subbed there and at many schools across Ector County Independent School District.
“I’m thankful. I’m thankful. I’m excited. I’m nervous — every adjective. That’s how I’m feeling,” she said of her feelings about commencement.
Her husband died when her daughter was 2 months old. Her son was 3 and her oldest son was 10. Perry said she chose to stay at home to raise her children. Her daughter was born prematurely and had severe asthma, so she couldn’t work full time.
Perry started subbing at her daughter’s school, so when her daughter was sick, she was able to stay home with her.
“If she got the common cold, it would turn into pneumonia. She never just got sick. It would always go to the worst,” Perry said.
When her daughter was in elementary school, Perry decided to get her associate degree from Odessa College. She earned it in 2008 just as her oldest son was entering OC.
Her children are now grown and she has one grandchild, who is 3 months old.
“My son and daughter-in-law graduated from here. My son works in the oilfield. My daughter-in- law is a third grade teacher. My youngest son attends here (UTPB). He’s studying to be a teacher, as well,” Perry said. “Then my daughter is graduating from OC tomorrow night (May 10) with honors. She wants to be an attorney and then hopefully a judge.”
To Perry, being a teacher is like being a mom.
“I love being a mom, so when I started subbing I loved to read. I had a teacher, she said, ‘You’re always reading. Did you ever think about being a teacher?’ I was like no; I’m OK subbing,” Perry said.
As her daughter got older, her asthma wasn’t as bad and the teacher asked Perry if she would consider becoming a teacher.
Perry thought about it. When her daughter graduated from Permian High School two years ago, she decided to get her bachelor’s degree. But she asked her family first. When they gave their blessing, she went for it.
“… I enrolled and I’m on the dean’s and I’ll be graduating with honors,” Perry said.
Originally from Greenville, Miss., Perry has four sisters. She came out here to visit one of them and met her husband.
“Thirty years later, I’m still here. When he passed, I still wanted to raise my children here, and so I’ve just stayed and I’ve raised them and put them through school and everything. I think I’m going to just stay here. I’m happy here. I have my home here; my friends and family,” Perry said.
She said she couldn’t have gotten through UTPB without her professors.
“… They have really been my mentors. I could knock on their door and it was always open for them to talk to me and encourage me because it has been hard. I wanted to quit a lot of times and they would tell me, ‘No, you can’t quit.’ I would cry, get upset, have panic attacks, etc., but I stayed with it because I tell my kids, ‘We can’t quit when we start something. We have to finish it,’” she said.
Then she had to apply that to herself.
“I think education is everything. I think no matter where you start off, education will take you where you want to go,” Perry said.
Ross Elementary Principal Rebecca Phillips said Perry is an inspiration for everyone at the campus.
“She has worked full time and attended school full time so she could graduate this semester with a teaching degree. Her goal is to start teaching in August 2019. She works in a variety of grade levels supporting students with learning disabilities. She has built great relationships with some of the most challenging students. She enjoys learning from our veteran teachers and is willing to learn and lend a helping hand when necessary,” Phillips said in an email.
“What I appreciate about Mrs. Perry is that she will ask questions instead of just going with the flow, her honesty and being flexible when necessary. Next year, the students in her class will be the luckiest kids in town!” Phillips added.