For Dr. Dudley Flood, teaching isn’t a profession – it’s a lifestyle and a calling.
“If I’m awake, I’m a teacher,” he says. “I can’t imagine not being a teacher.”
He believes strongly in the importance of teachers showing their students that he or she cares for them, an approach Flood advocates for anyone working with young people.
Although he officially retired in 1990, Flood still teaches every day and has taught every grade from first to twelfth. Beginning his career as a teacher, he later became a principal before being hired in 1969 by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction to lead the desegregation efforts of the state’s public schools.
“That’s the thing in which I’m most proud, because it was the most taxing and most challenging opportunity I’ve ever had,” he said. “At that time, it was uncommon to find anyone who really wanted to desegregate their schools.”
Although he has been part of desegregation efforts in 48 states, he believes that work is still incomplete.
“Integration is still in process,” he says. “Most people don’t know the difference between desegregation and integration. I spend time even now working with that concept.”
Flood had not always planned to become an educator. After his father died when Flood was 13, the young teen decided to enlist in the military following high school and use his GI benefits to perhaps attend college.
But then his older sister, Minnie Flood Reynolds, intervened. A teacher, she had graduated high school at 15 and college at 19. She set a high standard and “was much like a second mother” to Flood.
“When I was a junior, my older sister sat me down and said, ‘You ought to be thinking about the college of your choice,’” he recalls. “I said, ‘Why would I do so?’ And she said, ‘You’re going to go.’”
It was a defining moment for the young man.
“She created a kind of passion in me,” he said. “I knew in the 11th grade that I was likely to be a teacher.”
Other mentors helped him earn bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate degrees from North Carolina Central University, East Carolina University and Duke University, respectively.
Today, Flood works with many volunteer organizations. His favorite is an organization named after him, the Flood Group.
“It’s purpose and mission is to empower parents of students to further empower their children academically,” he said. “Right now we’re focusing on reading, though we call it ‘literacy’ because articulation is equally as important as reading. If you don’t know words, you’ll always be illiterate. So we really try to increase their vocabularies.”
The Flood Group works to accomplish this through seminars for parents and their children. Students are allowed to take the books home that they read during the seminars. Many of these children don’t have their own books at home.
A prostate cancer survivor, Flood remains active in campaigning against the disease. “Many of us like to help other men manage their conditions and learn how to be hyper-vigilant, which is something the medical community doesn’t promote as much,” he said.
Flood also serves on the Social Services Committee of the Wake Human Services Board and on the N.C. Public School Forum Executive Board. He also works with a leadership academy for students who have demonstrated high potential.
Retired in name only, Flood continues to believe in the importance of showing people that one cares, a lesson from the classroom which he lives out in the community.
“If it sounds like a full-time job, I guess it really is,” he said. “I don’t remember the last day I didn’t do something that I thought would enhance someone’s well-being.”
Creditline: By Madeline Reich