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A Legacy of Commitment

A legacy of commitment

Retired DPS Exceptional Children’s Director Wanda Carter, her son Mitchell Langley, her mother Gloria Kearney, and sister Angela Langley represent a Durham Public Schools family legacy of service. Each family member works for DPS. 

Carter attended Morehead Elementary and Rogers-Herr Middle, and graduated from Durham High School. She retired in 2018 with 32 years of educational service (22 with Durham Public Schools) as an Exceptional Children’s director for high schools and has since returned to the classroom to teach exceptional children at Lakeview.

Carter’s sister, Angela Langley, was the first African-American student to attend Hillside High School in a wheelchair after a public law was passed allowing handicapped students to fully participate in public schools.  Before the school had an elevator, her peers would carry her up and down the stairs to class in her wheelchair. Later, she went on to serve as a Durham City Council member. Langley passed away in 2016. 

Carter’s son Mitchell Langley currently teaches business at Brogden Middle School.

Ms. Kearney, the family’s matriarch, is a retired nurse from Duke Hospital. She spent 35 years as a nurse, and has been serving DPS as a personal care assistant at Hillside High School for four years. She has instilled in her children the importance of earning education credentials and then reaching back to bring others forward.

“I taught my children the importance of a good education, not to be afraid to take risks and to dream big. I impressed upon them to learn something new every day because education is lifelong, and to always live a life of gratitude.” 

They’ve made their mother proud by earning their degrees. Angela majored in Elementary Education, earned her Masters in Vocational Rehab counseling, served as a vocational rehabilitation counselor, and even volunteered as a surrogate the year before she transitioned.  Carter pursued her education and earned two Master’s degrees– one in school administration and another in Special Education. Langley earned a degree in Business Marketing from NC A&T and returned to school to earn his teaching credentials from the University of Phoenix.

Langley recognizes that his mother defied the odds because she was a teenage mother who persevered despite being responsible for another human being while she herself was growing up. 

“He grew up on a college campus,” said Carter of her son with a chuckle. 

Langley said he never questioned whether he would go to college after high school. He has now been a teacher with DPS for nearly nine years (his wife also teaches). As a DPS student, Langley attended Lakewood and Morehead elementary schools, Braggtown for sixth grade, Chewning Middle, and Durham and Northern high schools. He started as a full-time substitute teacher, then completed the lateral entry program. The NC A&T graduate started his career with Durham Public Schools at Lakeview School.

He taught entry-level engineering when he first arrived through the Project Lead the Way program. Now three years into his tenure at Brogden Middle School, he teaches introduction to office productivity and keyboarding.

Ms. Kearney graduated from Hillside High School and through her quiet presence, exudes a spirit of empowerment. She attended North Carolina Central University and Durham Technical Community College. As a nurse, she demonstrated care, compassion, and the soul of a teacher.

“Until you are free and you free yourself from certain conditions, it is then that you reach back and reach out for someone else,” said Kearney. Her daughters understood the assignment, and so did her grandson.

Armed with her credentials, Carter– who greatly influenced her own son’s trajectory toward college– took seriously the adage, “To whom much is given, much is required.” To her, that meant keeping her skills as an educator in Durham, because she says she can’t think of anywhere else she’d want to be.

“I’m from Durham. This is my home. I want to give back to my community.” she said. “Kids here need me more than others,” she said.

Carter said she has inherited the push for attaining one’s education from her mother.

“I’m always motivating kids of all ages…because some don’t know how far they can go if there’s no one there to encourage them and tell them that they can do more. I’ve always had mentors in my life to tell me I could.” 

Carter said her sister Angela inspired her and that she is the reason she decided to become an exceptional children’s educator.  Langley says his Aunt Angela inspired him too.

As a child, Langley spent time with his aunt and his mom, who were college roommates at NCCU, so matriculating to college was a natural path he took. He said his daughter’s decision to attend college was for the same reason: her parents and other family members were models. But regardless, the choice you make about your future is a personal one that you can make, he tells his students.

I say to them, “I’m just like you. I went to school and I followed a certain path. It’s not that complex.” 

But he’s there for his students when life gets hard for them by building authentic and genuine relationships with them.

“If you're willing to have patience, to work through things with them, if you don’t judge kids for some of the mistakes they may make, you can get through to them,” he said.

Carter and Langley said having educators in the family provides immediate feedback in their work.

“We can bounce ideas off of each other,” she said.

Their commitment to educating future generations is strong and steady. “We just want to impact our community,” she said.

And that they do. Carter realizes that she represents Durham Public Schools wherever she may go.

“You’re teaching when you’re not formally teaching in a building. You’re teaching on the weekends. You teach at all times. You encounter parents in the community that may have a question about how to improve their child’s education.  It goes further than the school building.”

Carter said one of her best-loved quotes is attributed to Frederick Douglass, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

And with that, the legacy continues.