Karen D. Cunningham White

Karen D. Cunningham White '86, '92
2006 Distinguished Alumna in Education

When Karen D. Cunningham White came to East Tennessee State University , she was singing and dancing. Being part of the Black Affairs Gospel Ensemble gave her plenty of opportunities to dance, but she danced her way all the way to a Bachelor of Science degree in Home Economics in 1986. White knew she loved to dance, but she found one other thing she was equally good at and loved even more...teaching. Going back to ETSU, White earned her Master of Arts in Teaching in 1992. She then began her career as an elementary school teacher in Johnson City , Tenn.

Teaching has become second nature to White. She was one of two educators in Tennessee and 100 nationwide to receive the National Educator Award from the Milken Family Foundation. White was the 2002 Johnson City Schools Elementary Teacher of the Year and was chosen one of the "Women Who Make a Difference" by the Johnson City Area Girl Scouts. She was also one of the top six finalists for the Teacher of the Year Award from the Tennessee Department of Education for 2003.

White is actively involved in many organizations dealing with education. She is a member of the National Education Association, Tennessee Education Association and the Johnson City Education Association. She was the president of the Johnson City chapter, where she has sought solutions to professional challenges facing educators and served as an advocate for her fellow teachers on issues of concern both locally and nationally. She was also a member of the State Vocabulary Committee and Community Involvement Committee in Johnson City.

Always taking every opportunity to help others, White has also involved herself with the development and training of future teachers. She has facilitated "I Can Do It!" which is a regional workshop for the Tennessee Education Association, is a mentor for the Foundations of Education students and a mentor teacher in reading methods for student teachers at Milligan College . In addition, she is a mentor for student teachers at ETSU, as well as a member of the Dean's Advisory council and a member of the MAT Advisory Council for the university.

White continues to be recognized for contributions in education and leadership. She had an article about her appear in NEA Today , local CBS affiliate WJHL TV had a news segment titled "Hometown Hero" and ETSU has named her a Black Faculty and Staff Honoree.

In 2004, White found her way back to her original love...dancing. She re-joined the Mountain Movers Dance Company at ETSU—the same group she danced with twenty years earlier "I came to ETSU dancing," White said "Twenty years later, I started dancing and performing again...the moral is NEVER STOP DANCING!"