“Drama Queen” Kim White retires after 33 years


White holding hand-stitched gift from long-time costumer Sue Stafford.

Miles Hayford

White on stage with Nazareth President Deborah Tracy, Principal Therese Hawkins and the cast of her final show “25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”

Fourty-three years ago, Kim White was 21-years old and fresh out of school when she decided to take a teaching job at her alma mater, St. Francis Wheaton High School. There, she spent the first 10 years of her teaching career until she heard of a drama teacher job opening at a high school where her husband’s best friend worked: Nazareth Academy. 

Fast forward 33 years, and here she is wrapping up her final year at Nazareth and her final year as a teacher. While she prepares for life post-Nazareth and post-teaching, White reflects that the past decades have passed in what seems like the “blink of an eye.”

Over the years, White helped to grow the Drama program into what it is today. Each year, she has taught all levels of acting and speech classes and she has directed the fall play and the spring musical. “The program has grown in leaps and bounds,” remarked White. Additionally, White has led the productions to statewide success. Many of Nazareth’s plays and musicals under her direction have gone to state competitions or the Illinois High School Theatre Festival.

In addition to her impact on the caliber of the drama program productions, White has had an incredible impact on so many of her students. Many of her current and former students have reached out over the years to let White know how impactful she’d been in their lives. “Mrs. White helps me become the best person I can be. She teaches me how to work hard and how to be proud of the work I have accomplished,” said Senior Harrison Gianares. 

Although she hasn’t taught there in decades, her students from St. Francis are planning on coming to say goodbye when she retires at the end of the year. One such former student is Joe Serio. While at the Illinois High School Theatre Festival recently, White recalled how she ran into Serio and how he surprised her with his expression of gratitude. “When a grown man comes up to you and says, ‘thank you for the man I am today,’ that really hits you,” said White. 

From left to right: White and her family: son Zach Baker, husband Larry White and daughter Courtney Alvarez.

White recognizes that she is known for her work in the drama program, but she thinks that the best thing she does at Naz is teach Speech. She said she actually loves teaching the semester-long class the most because it’s where she sees the most profound growth in her students. “I love to see kids find their voice. I love seeing people using their voices. In this day and age with all the phones, I just love when people find their voice and use it for good,” said White. 

Throughout her long tenure, Nazareth has not only been her place of work, but also a home full of friends and family. She witnessed the Nazareth community and her own family grow up during her time here. “I raised my children here,” said White. When she started in 1990, Sean Pearson and Janet Rausch were seniors. Later, her own daughter graduated from Nazareth and befriended Therese Hawkins’ daughter. Casey Moran trick-or-treated with White’s son. “That’s how long I’ve been here,” said White. 

Though she has affected the lives of so many people here at Nazareth, there is one coworker in particular with whom she shares an extra-special relationship. Janet Rausch, now Nazareth’s Director of Campus Ministry, was the very first student White met when she started at Nazareth. Rausch remembers that at 16 years-old, she was very excited for a young and energetic teacher to join the faculty at Naz. 

They formed a strong bond and Rausch became her first student director. Rausch later rejoined the Naz community as a part of the staff and was able to witness White’s work in the drama program again when her own daughters had the opportunity to work with White. 

Now that White is leaving, it’s “an end of an era,” as Rausch described it. But, most importantly Nazareth will be losing a great person. “Not only will we be missing a great Drama director, but I’ll be missing a great friend,” said Rausch.

Considering the fact that she started teaching when she was only 21, White has spent her entire adult life going to school, whether that be as a student or a teacher. 

Regarding retirement, White said, “It’s gonna be very different.” She has some exciting plans for the future. White and her husband will be moving in with her daughter’s family in Texas and they are in the process building a home with them. White also plans on doing some subbing and acting in her free time. “But, my big thing is that I’m gonna be a grandma,” said White. 

Life at Nazareth will certainly be different without White on campus. We will all miss the daily impact White makes, but we know that her amazing legacy will live on.  

The entire Nazareth community is so grateful for Kim White’s countless contributions over the past 33 years and we know that when the curtain rises on her next act after teaching, she will continue to shine and sparkle in all she does.