Whitt inspired by mother’s bravery in Nazi Germany


From her 12 years as a teacher at Spring Valley High school to her most recent nomination for the Myra Greenspun Teacher of Excellence Award, Ms. Deborah Whitt says her inspiration and motivation to do good all boils down to one thing: being inspired by her parents.

In Nazi Germany, Ms. Whitt’s mom, Gertrud Delrogh, often hid Jewish citizens in her cellar and would sneak them to the border of Switzerland to freedom. Having survived the war and the bombings that destroyed her the family business in Ulm, Gertrud eventually made her way to the United States in 1952. The first thing she did when she became a U.S. citizen was vote, a right she appreciated since it was denied to her as a young adult coming of age in Nazi Germany.

Though Ms. Whitt did not quite follow her mother’s footsteps as a liberator, she decided to contribute to her community by teaching.

“It really made me realize what life was about,” Ms. Whitt explained.

Ever since, she has been expanding student minds in the world of literature and philosophy, helping them to read in-between the lines of literature here at Spring Valley High School.

“I’ve never learned more from a class,” said Anthony Lee, a senior in Ms. Whitt’s Advanced Placement (AP) English and Literature class.

Lee explained that Whitt’s class was incredibly practical, and that she has a very unique style of teaching.

“In a way it feels like college, not as much as a regular high school class,” Lee said.

Lee noted that Ms. Whitt often makes students talk about what they read and analyze to find a deeper message.

Throughout her journey Ms. Whitt said she remembers what her parents taught her growing up: to have faith in her fellow men and that education is very important. The death of her mother four years ago made Ms. Whitt realize that she wanted to help people even more. She decided to start the Gertrud Delrogh Scholarship, naming the scholarship after her mother. The scholarship requirements include writing an essay on how one will utilize the scholarship to aid society, sustaining a GPA of at least 2.8 and declaring a major in Liberal Arts.

Ms. Whitt welcomes all seniors in Clark County School District (CCSD) to apply for the scholarship.

“I hope that a student from Spring Valley can win the scholarship this year,” Ms. Whitt said.

Even though there have been no winners from Spring Valley High School, winners from other schools in CCSD have gone on to accomplish great things. One senior designed a water system for women and children living in parts of South Africa. Another senior started her own Women’s Rights group in Central America. These seniors took courses with Ms. Whitt’s scholarship in college and went into the world to make a difference. The Gertrud Delrogh scholarship was created to encourage up-standers.

“It takes a courageous person to stand up for what is right and education informs us in mainly those very difficult, but necessary choices,” she said.

Whitt also believes that literature and education can solve a lot of the world’s problems.  With literature, students read about the hardships that people endure under harsh situations, like “The Diary of Anne Frank,” and then use education to find ways of preventing or fixing the issues of any given society she said.

Whitt passionately explained that the world would be a dark, horrible and an isolated place if we did not have education. In a way, she said, education is like the sun. Just how plants receive their nutrients from the sun, education gives people the light to see how the world really is and the never-ending possibilities of what it could be.

      Ms. Whitt is the English Department Chair at Spring Valley High School and she holds degrees in both English and Philosophy. Whitt has received the Distinguished Star Award from CCSD, the National Senatorial Recognition for implementing the first student-staffed Writing Center at a high school in the Western United States and the Clark County Education Association (CCEA) Equity and Diversity Award for her outstanding work with students, among many others.

“Life becomes that much richer when we learn to step outside of ourselves, and give back to others. It really is a beautiful thing, you know, it’s what makes life so grand in so many ways,” Ms. Whitt said.