Ella Porter Ward has accomplished much

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 27, 2002

Dr. Ella Mae Porter Ward was an attendee and one of the 13 honorees during the reunion of East Suffolk High School alumni last weekend.

While in Suffolk, Wad took a tour of the Suffolk News-Herald and sought what its publications were all about. After looking at some of the special sections, she expressed an interest in the weekly Question-and-Answer edition, and said that she would like to contribute to the column.

Ward is a native of Suffolk, the valedictorian of the Class of 1964 at the former East Suffolk High School and was reared by her maternal aunt, Eula Mae Odom, and attended the former Mary E. Estes Elementary School as a very young child.


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&uot;I am truly a testimony to other young people who married and began a family early in life and have lived to overcome the odds,&uot; Ward said.

She said that when she graduated from high school, there were so many people in the community that felt as if she had ruined her life forever when she married her high school sweetheart, Herman L. Ward – who was also a 1964 graduate – and began a family.

Even though she gained the husband and child, she maintained the ability to earn five academic degrees including a doctoral degree from Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. She also became and stayed a teacher and school administrator for 33 years; she is now assistant principal at Cradock Middle School in Portsmouth. She is also a member of the Chesapeake School Board and has won numerous awards in the schools and communities.

&uot;My ability to be a devoted wife, mother and caretaker for my aunt for 37 years serves as ample proof that what another person may consider as a mistake in his or her life,&uot; said Ward, &uot;it is up to you as an individual to prove them wrong. Why? Because with determination, faith in God, and a lot of hard work, you can live with and overcome your situation and rise to even higher and greater heights.&uot;

Name? Dr. Ella Mae Porter Ward

Age? 56

Hometown? I was born in Hertford County, N.C., but was reared in Suffolk.

Family? Maternal aunt, Eula Mae Watson Odom from Suffolk; from the age of three my natural parents were Andrew and Alberta Porter. I have been married to my high school sweetheart Herman L. Ward for 37 years and we have one son, Torilus O. Ward; one daughter-in-law, Tracy; and one goddaughter, Essence Watson.

Education? 1964 valedictorian e of the former East Suffolk High School; in 1969 received a BA degree in English from Norfolk State University in Norfolk; in 1977, received a MA degree in mass communications from NSU; in 1992 at Old Dominion University was a Danforth Scholar and received a MS degree in administration and supervision; in 1998, attended Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg and received a Certificate of Advanced Studies degree in educational administration; and in 1999, attended Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg and received a Doctoral Degree in education administration.

Career/Occupation? For the seventh consecutive year I’m serving as assistant principal of Cradock Middle School in Portsmouth, for one year served as summer school principal at Churchland Middle School; for one year, served as assistant principal at Waters Middle School, for one year served as an assistant principal at Woodrow Wilson High School and the New Directions Center. I also taught English for 23, and journalism for 12 years at Woodrow Wilson High School. In May, 2000, was elected to a 4-year term on the Chesapeake School Board, which oversees the education of more than 38,000 students annually.

Why did you pursue your chosen career? I decided that I wanted to become a teacher at the age of six while in the first-grade at the former Mary E. Estes Elementary School because I wanted to be like my teacher, Mrs. Diggs, and I have never wavered from that decision after 33 years in education. I felt very lonely, insecure, and somewhat abandoned as a young child because I had been given to my aunt as a three-year-old. I saw the school and the teachers as my &uot;safe haven&uot; and a way of escaping from the emotional trauma of family separation, and I wanted to provide that &uot;safe haven&uot; for other children.

My first-grade teacher, Mrs. Diggs, and many other teachers – including Mrs. Amanda Rodgers, who taught me ninth grade English – became my role models. I wanted to be like those teachers when I grew up.

&uot;…I was offered many job opportunities with the federal government and other institutions after graduation from NSU because of my high GPA, and my high standardized test scores that would have been much more lucrative financially, I turned all of them down because I wanted to teach. I also wanted to help other children just as those dedicated teachers had helped me.

Favorite thing about your job? The thing that I like most about my job is helping students to see that education is the key to success and that they can overcome the odds if they study and work hard.

Least favorite? I like least having to suspend children out of school because I know that they will be missing instruction while on suspension and that they probably will fall further behind in their studies.

What accomplishments are you proudest of? I believe that earning five academic degrees while taking care of my aunt and working full-time jobs, along with wining an election to the Chesapeake School Board are my greatest accomplishments.

What legacy would you like to leave for future generations? I would like to leave a legacy of hard work and determination to rise above the odds for future generations. I want them to know that they can overcome adverse situations if they study and work hard, and that they can gain a lot if they would, in turn, share with others.

What or who motivates or inspires you? I am inspired by the many individuals who achieve as a result of their hard work and determination and by those who strive to help others obtain a better life.

Favorite way to spend your free time? Watching a good comedy because I believe that laughter is good for the soul, and listening to inspirational music.

What words of wisdom would you like to share with others? I would encourage everyone to learn all you can and share with family, friends, and people in general.

What ingredients are in the recipe for a good life? Love, faith, hope, determination, hard work, and a caring spirit for others.

If you were on &uot;Survivor,&uot; what characteristic about you would your teammates find most valuable? Hard work and determination.

We all have our &uot;15 minutes of fame&uot; in this life. How would you spend yours in the spotlight? I would like to spend my 15 minutes with my family and friends.

How has the recent tragedy of Sept. 11th impacted your life? The tragedy has caused me to take a closer look at the quality time I spend with family and friends, and it has caused me to develop an even deeper appreciation for those relationships. Realizing that life is so uncertain, I try to live each day as if it could be my last day.