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Director of Public Relations
Belhaven University Honors Long-Time Hattiesburg Educator
November 3, 2022 (Hattiesburg, Miss.) – Belhaven University leaders surprised Hattiesburg English teacher Betty Baxter Sugg on Thursday and awarded her an honorary master’s degree for her commitment to teaching.
Sugg, a Belhaven alumna who graduated in 1969, has taught for over 36 years at Presbyterian Christian School (PCS) in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. She currently teaches English, literature, and creative writing for grades 9 – 12.
“Betty is the best of the best in the classroom,” said Belhaven University President Dr. Roger Parrott. “Her love for learning and her love for students has made her one of those rare teachers that students never forget. Even more importantly, she helps students understand a Biblical perspective, equipping them with opportunities of service and significance. I’m especially proud Betty developed the call to teach at Belhaven. These awards highlight her as a model teacher for the hundreds of future teachers Belhaven is now preparing through our classroom and online education degree programs.”
PCS Interim Head of School Dr. Allen Smithers had this to say. “Betty is easy to celebrate. It would be impossible to encapsulate the impact she has had on the lives of her coworkers, students, and the kingdom of God over the last four decades. She is, quite simply, indescribable. Our PCS Family will never forget the experience of watching our beloved teacher and friend become a two-time Belhaven degree recipient in front of our very eyes.”
This is Sugg’s second award from Belhaven University. During the 2022 Belhaven Homecoming Awards Ceremony Sugg was honored with the Bettye Quinn Education Award. This special award is given to a School of Education graduate who reflects dedication, commitment, and loyalty to teaching and service to their community.
Sugg has had a major impact on countless students who attended PCS. One of her former students, Lillian Sims, was so inspired by Sugg that she became a teacher and is now an instructor at Pisgah High School near Jackson, Mississippi. She recently wrote an article about her former teacher. In the story, Sims recounts her time under Sugg’s tutelage.
Sims said, “I had one of those truly great teachers. Ms. Betty Sugg taught me three years of literature and creative writing, and still teaches at my high school. She’s a bit of a legend to a lot of people. She was a game changer in my life. The more I reminisce, the more classmates I remember who developed a love of literature (or at the very least, a grudging appreciation) due to her. That was what truly made her great: she drew students into literature even when they didn’t come in eager to learn.
Sims continues, “Before I came to her classes I wasn’t a fan of English; I thought of it largely as grammatical punishment. Ms. Sugg did not distill an English class into a grammar class, although she did not hesitate to be sure we knew it when we erred. Literature and writing were always at the forefront, and she made them understandable and enjoyable. She taught me to love English as a means of thinking deeply about the world rather than as a cruel set of linguistic rules.”
In 1969, Sugg earned a B.A. in English at Belhaven University. At Belhaven, she was the captain of the volleyball team and later assisted the volleyball coach. She even helped teach various classes such as Red Cross Lifesaving. Through these experiences and the encouragement of professors and friends, she began to see her gift for teaching.
She began teaching at PCS in 1986. Throughout her years, she has had the benefit and blessing of a school board with a vision for Christian education and an administration that has weathered the cultural shifts that have challenged that vision. “Betty is truly a one-of-a-kind educator,” said Virginia Morris, former member of the PCS Board and current Belhaven University Board Member. “Her commitment to excellence in teaching and her dedication to her students has certainly made the world a better place.”
Most recently, Smithers has provided leadership that encourages Sugg and her colleagues to teach in a manner that is distinguished by a biblical worldview, equipping students with the moral integrity, intellectual capacity, and moral conscience to impact the world for Christ.
Sugg observed, “Administrators, staff members, and teachers who wrestle with the practical aspects of Christian education have enriched me personally and shaped my classroom practices. Teaching is a community investment. Although every teacher thrives on seeing growth in his or her students, working with a team attuned to the spiritual growth of each individual student and staff packs its own additional blessings.”