“Midland College knows how to celebrate others,” Betty Clements, department chair
of Languages, Speech & Communications said. “That’s one of the things that made me
love this college!”
Clements said these words shortly after she received the 2021 Teaching Excellence
Award on Friday, November 19, 2021. At this event, her fellow employees celebrated
her expertise in teaching and genuine concern for students.
“I’m not just a teacher,” Clements explained. “I serve and interact with students
on a daily basis, and that’s what makes me happy. I’m a servant teacher. My job
is to understand where students are and then help them reach their goals. Teaching
is about building relationships.”
The idea of relationship building is one of the things that Dr. William Feeler, dean
of Fine Arts & Communications, said makes Betty a truly exceptional faculty member.
“Ms. Clements is a person who shows love and respect to all around her,” Feeler said
“As the cleaning lady said, ‘She’s cool!’”
Clements has been “teaching” since she was a little girl.
“I have 12 brothers and sisters,” Clements explained. “I’m the fourth oldest. Growing
up, I would gather all my younger siblings together and force them to be my students,
whether they liked it or not! I created lessons and used old textbooks given to my
father by the local principal. I handed out paper and pencils, and I made them raise
their hands to talk and answer questions. I knew very early in life that teaching
was my passion.”
Clements grew up in Monroe, LA in a working-class family. Her father was a school
“We were poor, but resourceful,” Clements recalled. “My parents owned their own house,
and we always had a big garden. The garden helped to provide food for us, as well
as neighbors and friends. Whenever anyone was down on their luck and needed food,
my father was quick to respond with fresh vegetables from our garden. He instilled
in all of his children the importance of helping others. He said that we all have
something to give in order to be a blessing to others.”
Clements was the first person in her family to receive a college degree. Immediately
after high school, she attended the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff on an academic
“I didn’t know anything about college, and since my parents and older siblings hadn’t
gone to college, I had no one to help ‘show me the ropes,’” she explained. “I remember
my first day in Freshman English class. It was a 7:00 a.m. class, and there were
about 14 students in class. The professor’s name was Mrs. Fuller. The first thing
she said was, ‘I’m known as Flunking Fuller. No one makes an ‘A’ in my class.’ I
was terrified. I remember thinking that maybe college wasn’t for me. I stuck it
out, and while I made ‘A’s’ in other classes, Mrs. Fuller was true to her word. I
only made a ‘B’ in her class, but I passed!”
Clements said that she still remembers that terrible first day of college and tries
to giver her students a different experience.
“We never know what students are experiencing or their backgrounds, and when a student
enters the classroom, their entire background enters the classroom and impacts how
they learn and grow.” she said. “I thought I did not belong in college from my experience
in Mrs. Fuller’s class. Students need to feel a sense of belonging and it is created
through communication and relationships. How I communicate with them can impact whether
or not they continue in their academic journeys. Learning is relational; therefore,
it’s important for me to get to know my students so that I can help guide them through
my class. It doesn’t mean I have to lower my standards—it just means that I have
to help students meet those standards in a way that is not intimidating or threatening.
There is a way to be firm and also communicate concern.”
Clements is in her fifth year of teaching at Midland College, and Feeler said she
has been one of the greatest assets of the Fine Arts & Communications Division.
“She is conscientious, fun, dedicated and innovative,” he said. “She made a huge
impression her first semester by agreeing to go to Greenwood High School to teach
dual credit Speech classes on their campus. Then, she won the hearts of both the
students and the principal by going to their evening basketball games!”
Clements still teaches dual credit Speech courses in Greenwood and said she loves
the Greenwood community. Feeler said that her work in Greenwood has done much to
cement Midland College’s relationship with the community and even to help in the expansion
of dual credit classes.
This past spring, Clements coordinated and led Midland College’s first online diversity
conference and is pursuing this topic for a doctoral dissertation in Educational Administration
at Carolina University.
“I’ve always had an interest in diversity,” she said. “However, I’m not interested
in how diversity highlights differences, but rather how it can bring people together.
Differences shouldn’t separate us. We need to work together. My goal for the diversity
conference was to give students and employees a safe space to address differences
and then work together for common goals.
“Growing up, my parents never made it seem like because we were African-American,
we were different from others. It was not uncommon for us to have people that were
not African-American at our dinner table. That’s where I learned that we had more
in common than we had differences.”
Clements said that she can relate to many community college students because even
though she started her college career as a traditional student, she finished as a
mother of three small children when she was in her 30s.
“During my sophomore year of college, I became pregnant and dropped out,” she explained.
“It was more than a decade later before I enrolled at the University of Louisiana
at Monroe. By that time, I was married, and my husband worked to support our family
while I pursued my dream of obtaining a college education. Our children were in grade
school at the time, so the children and I would compare grades and sit at the kitchen
table and study together. We motivated each other, and it helped to hold each other
When she was finishing her bachelor’s degree, one of her professors encouraged her
to get her master’s degree. So, she continued to earn a master’s degree and became
a graduate teaching assistant. Since that time, she has held numerous teaching positions
at Southern University at Shreveport, Baton Rouge Community College and most recently,
before coming to Midland College, at West Georgia Technical College in Atlanta.
“I love Midland,” Clements said. “It’s the first time I’ve lived out of the deep
South, but I couldn’t ask for a better place to work than Midland College. From the
minute I accepted the job, everybody embraced me. When I came to Midland, it was
during an oil boom, and I had a hard time locating an apartment. Katherine Allen,
who was then the department chair, offered to allow me to stay with her until I could
find a place. Vivian and Kent Moss [retired music and photography professors] took
me out to lunch and invited me to their church. I immediately knew that Midland was
where I belonged.”
In the past five years since Clements has been at Midland College, she has made a
“Ms. Clements quickly gained a reputation as a superb teacher and a favorite of students,”
Feeler said. “Then she became department chair upon the retirement of Katherine Allen.
She is recognized as an excellent leader by all her faculty members.
“When I proposed to her that we use Speech 1315 as a corequisite credit course with
students taking developmental reading, she immediately jumped on board, working with
both Speech and Reading faculty members to make the program a great success. In fact,
I believe that we were the first program in Texas to reach 100 percent corequisite
status in the developmental program.”
Clements arrived at Midland College with the goal of starting an honors speech club
on campus. She accomplished that in her second year and now leads a very active organization.
When the COVID pandemic forced Midland College professors to change teaching styles,
Clements was one of the first to begin using a combination of virtual and traditional
classroom teaching in the fall of 2020 by simply opening her classroom to those students
who wished to attend class on campus, rather than virtually.
“Betty shows her dedication to students and to her job through her availability—even
answering her phone in the summer when not teaching or on weekends when she is out
of town,” Feeler said. “When asked to meet a new challenge, to help others, to do
more, to go the extra mile, to serve on a committee, to be a confidante, to give attention
to a student, Ms. Clements knows only one answer—a resounding YES!”