Dorthea B. Nevils has served as an English teacher at her alma mater, University City High School, since the age of 21. Nevils has played many roles since joining the high school. Nevils worked as the English department chairperson, building union representative, class sponsor and in many more roles. “I really learned a lot from it,” Nevils said.
For Nevils, she knew what she wanted to do for a living ever since she was young. “I knew that I wanted to be a teacher since I was seven years old,” she said.
Upon graduation from high school, she went to the University of Missouri Saint Louis (UMSL) and graduated with a bachelor of arts in English and then later earned her master of education in Educational Leadership at UMSL also.
“College was a culture shock for me, even though I was right in the city,” she said. “With it being a university, there were people from all over the world who came to UMSL.”
In this environment she interacted with individuals who were quite older than she was. “What was interesting was just meeting so many different people, because I was 17 years old when I started college and I thought that everyone was going to be 17 to 22 years old, but I was sitting right alongside women in their 30s and 40s.”
Once Nevils graduated from UMSL she received a lot of offers from schools in the St. Louis County area.
“For me I was just fast-tracked, looking forward to beginning my career as a teacher,” she said. “My senior year in the second semester, I student-taught in the Ritenour School District, and by the time I graduated I received offers from school districts such as Parkway, Lindbergh and a few other prominent districts in St. Louis County.”
Her mother offered some advice. “She said, ‘Look at the fact that you are a very young woman; look at the fact that you’re going to go to things at night. You have to think about the inclement weather and your commute to work,’” Nevils remembered.
This discussion with her mother led to her decision to rejoin her alma mater.
“Since I still live in University City and since I loved my high school and I had great experiences there as a student, I bypassed the offers in Parkway, Lindbergh and other prominent school districts in St. Louis County,” she said. “I opted to return to my alma mater, and I don’t have any regrets.”
Nevils became a teacher at the age of 21.
“Being 21 years old it was very interesting, because I was a high school teacher, so for me it was interesting on both sides of the coin,” she said. “Because, for one, with my teaching at my alma mater, a lot of my students were like younger siblings, nieces, nephews, or cousins of some of my former classmates.”
Nevils also faced difficulties with some of the students because of her youthfulness. “Because I was so young, I faced some challenges with some young people who wanted to challenge my authority,” she said.
"I wanted to be a good example for the young people and I wanted them to come up and be leaders, even if they’re young, because you could be a leader at any age."
She plans on doing more with her education and career.
“I believe in being a lifelong learner, and even now I am a doctoral candidate and I am working on my Ed.D. at Lindenwood University,” Nevils said. “I want to continue on with my education and I would like to continue on with my career for the next few years, and maybe in another few years I can ride off into the sunset and maybe teach at a university or do education consulting.”