View of swamp, surrounded by trees, sunset behind trees

Louisiana Accent Away From Home

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By Paige Webb

Allison Webb is a fourth-grade elementary school teacher. She has been teaching for a total of 18 years.

Webb grew up in Ruston, Louisiana. She attended New Mexico State University for her undergraduate degree in Elementary Education, and later attended Oakland University and received her Master of Arts and Teaching.

Having moved around so much, Webb has vast knowledge of different living situations, reaching goals, and pushing forward.

Describe the place or places where you grew up. What was your life like there?

I grew up in northern Louisiana. A conservative, Bible-belt, small town. I grew up where community was strong, for those who were accepted by it. Those who were born and bread there were “strong,” so breaking into that part of the strong community was difficult. They were not always welcoming to outsiders.

But my family was included because of my dad being a doctor. Status meant a huge deal.

When my parents divorced when I was in sixth grade, divorces were unheard of at that time. It brought a lot of challenges, especially when attending a private school versus public.

Another issue was that I was Catholic, and I felt the judgement of others for not being a Protestant. I was challenged a lot about my religion, especially in high school.

I had a great childhood, I was surrounded by supportive family and friends. Not to sound cliche, but we played outside until dark; there wasn’t a stranger, because the town was so small. Everybody came out to sporting events… it was a lot of fun growing up there. As a child, I was unaware of those underlying issues.

Why and how did you leave? Where did you go?

I left because I was looking for something different. As I got older, I didn’t like what I saw around me and I was looking for more. If I had decided to go to the local college, it would’ve been an extension of high school. The people were shallow and two-faced, though I was 17 while thinking this. I initially left when I went to go to college at New Mexico State University at the age of 17. The moment I stepped on the campus, I knew it was the place for me.

Who came with you? Who did you leave behind? Why?

I went by myself and left behind my mom in Louisiana, my grandparents in Louisiana, and my brother and dad in northern New Mexico. I left behind all of my friends that I grew up with. I had been with those friends since I was 5, so it was a huge change for me. It was difficult, but I knew I needed to leave for the betterment of myself.

How did you feel when you left?

Mixed feelings, because I was excited for this new chapter, but [it was] very difficult because I was leaving behind the comfort of home and everything I’d ever known. I felt very lonely, isolated, anxious, and nervous I wouldn’t fit in. I felt self-conscious, because I had a very thick accent and I felt as if people were making fun of me for it. I wasn’t even aware I had an accent until I went there.

Allison
Allison Webb smiles in her home. Fall 2019. Photo credit: Paige Webb.

 

I joined a sorority to recreate friendships and find a sense of self in this new community. It was hard at first, because even at rush events, the girls already had connections with each other as most of them were already from the general area. It turned out to be a great decision, even though I almost quit and went home to Louisiana.

Describe how your life is different where you live now.

I met my husband at NMSU and we ended up moving to Michigan for a job opportunity. There was a new sense of excitement, except this time I got to share it with somebody. We have raised three children here, and it was very difficult not having any family here to help out. The living expenses were so much higher than they ever were in New Mexico, and, having a young family, it was very hard to keep up.

But we knew education was important. My husband got his master’s degree at Oakland University as soon as we moved to Michigan, but I had to wait until my kids were older so I could get my master’s here for teaching.

Life was very different being in Michigan in the beginning, but, after being here for 24 years now, I love it and I’ve found my own sense of home here being with my immediate family.

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