Hampton continues the legacy of teaching and mentoring


Trinity Martinez/Staff Photographer

Angela Harris Hampton goes over some English concepts for her 5th grade class at Wynton Blount Elementary School.

Camille Zanders, Staff Reporter/Writer

Angela Harris Hampton takes a minute to pose with her family in front of the newly constructed Interpretive Center on the campus. (L-R) Edwin, Angela, Braydon and Bryce Hampton.

In 1867, the Lincoln Normal School of Marion, later renamed Alabama State University was incorporated in Perry County by nine newly freed slaves. The school, credited as being the first liberal arts school for Negroes in the State of Alabama, devoted its classes to preparing black students to become teachers. This preparation has continued 15 decades later as many Alabama State University graduates have received undergraduate and graduate degrees in education and have planted themselves all across the United States.

One of these graduates, Angela Harris Hampton, a 1999 alumna, always knew that she was destined to be an educator. A product of many places, Hampton was born in Chicago and later relocated to several states including Michigan, Mississippi, Ohio and Wisconsin. During her grade school years, Hampton remembers going to 12 different schools as a child which gave her a different perspective as she was unable to credit a specific ‘hometown’ that reared her. In a way, it seems that her migrations made her into a more dynamic human being as she simply states, “I took a little bit from wherever I was.”

Even though her address often changed, her childhood dreams of being a teacher never wavered.  She laughed as she said, “I would come home every day from school and make my cousins play school with me. They had to be the students because I was always the teacher. We always used real pencils and real paper, and I would make them do actual assignments because I loved to grade back then!”

Hampton graduated from Harvey Custer High School in Milwaukee, Wis. where she decided to accept a track scholarship from Alabama State University.  She remembers her early years at the university as “a bittersweet time.” Though she was on the track team, she did not have family in Montgomery or relationships to turn to in times of need.

“I don’t have any relatives in the entire state of Alabama, so I was pretty much on my own.”

As is the experience of many freshmen, she encountered problems during her transition to college life as well as remaining focused. When she was not preoccupied with athletic programs and events, she was plagued with too much free time.  She reflects back on those days.

“I made a lot of mistakes and bad decisions,” Hampton said, “but I think, as a result of that, those things helped me grow up,”

She soon found companionship and sisterhood after pledging the Epsilon Beta chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. It was the members of this organization that would motivate her to run for the highly regarded position of Miss Alabama State University.

“I actually ran for Miss ASU, because at the time, they said that a Zeta would never win … and to me, that was a challenge,” Hampton said.  According to Hampton, at that time, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. was seen as the inferior sorority on campus, so she saw the race as an opportunity to disprove the false stigma that had been attached to her organization. As a result, Hampton, a shy girl that routinely ducked away from cameras, was crowned Miss Alabama State University and given opportunities that she would have missed had she not run for the position.

“Once I won, I was actually shocked,” Hampton said. “I was like ‘Oh my gosh!  Wow, this is a platform for me to do the things that I really want to do in the community.”

It appears that her platform was the favored aspect of the position that Hampton appreciates the most. It gave her the opportunity to be a part of something much larger than herself. The position also allowed her to be advised by Sheyann Webb Christburg, who provided many life lessons.

“The wisdom, the advice that she gave to me, kept me grounded,” Hampton said.

As Miss ASU, she made various appearances in the community, making speeches at events, schools, nursing homes, and many more. The position held her to a higher standard and she felt a sense of accountability, as one that the students of Alabama State University could turn to.

She says that it was always looming in the back of her mind that she was representing the university.

“It definitely added weight to my shoulders, but in a good way.”

That sense of responsibility is one of the many things that would help her in her future career.

Preparing her lessons in advance is a regular routine for her 5th-grade class at Wynton Blount Elementary School.

As an adult, Hampton can look back on her time at the university with fond memories. Her favorite Hornet memory being, “giving my track coach HELL!” She got a good laugh out of remembering Coach Horace Crump, who was the head track coach at the time and the late Robert Whitfield who served as the athletic academic advisor.

“Every time I think of ASU I think of how he had to try to keep a smile on his face,” Hampton said. “He would see me coming and just drop and shake his head.”

She is reassuring that all of her antics were out of love and fun.

While running track, she met her husband of twenty years, Edwin Hampton, who also graduated from the university with a degree in chemistry.  They have two sons, Bryce and Braydon.

Currently instructing a fifth-grade class at Wynton Blount Elementary School in Montgomery, Hampton enters her 22nd year of teaching. So far, she has taught grades ranging from second to sixth, but makes it clear that she has absolutely no preference of grade or age range. As long as she is teaching, she is satisfied.

“I’m passionate about teaching. It does not matter whether it is for children, adults or whoever, I am very passionate about this.”

Amazingly, this unwavering passion for teaching is one that was unprompted. Hampton said that over the years of attending different schools that she has no teacher of her childhood that she particularly admires or mirrors. Her dream is stemmed purely from her love of education, and more importantly, educating others. It is this underlying passion that creates an environment of love, understanding, and excitement in her classroom.

“We have a lot of fun in my classroom,” Hampton said. “Sometimes the principal or other teachers have to knock on our door to ask us to be a little quieter.”

She notes that as time changes, the way students respond to their work environments also changes; leading to her utilization of collaboration, group work and talking among her students as an effective way of instructing. Hampton has witnessed phenomenal results with this approach, not only from the current students but also from loving words of affirmation from colleagues and past students. Hampton told of multiple occasions where students of her past have reached out, sending their love. Her face gushes at the story of a past student emailing her, thanking her for her teaching style and crediting her for that student’s love for English.

“I was completely in tears reading it,” Hampton said.

Another story of a young man whose family had been affected by the COVD-19 pandemic emailed her about a job interview that he had. During this interview, he was asked about his all-time favorite teacher, to which he did not hesitate to give Hampton’s name.

“It is the little moments like this one that really lets you know that you are making a difference,” Hampton said. That is the reason why I teach.”

Both the former and current principals of Wynton Blount Elementary School hold a deep appreciation for Hampton. Linda Roberts, a former principal who actually served as one of Hampton’s instructors while she attended the university, praises Hampton’s success in raising her students’ writing test scores.

“She was superb in the classroom, that’s why I hired her,” Roberts said. “The parents loved her. The teachers loved her. You could tell that she was sincere about her work, and that’s why the kids adored her.”

Current principal Ty Harrell, in her first year as principal of Wynton Blount Elementary School, applauds Hampton’s work ethic in the classroom.

Former Miss Alabama State University Angela Harris Hampton believes her experience at ASU helped her to be the woman that she is today.

“What I admire the most about [Hampton] is her passion and determination to ensure that she meets every need of each of her students.” She tells of Hampton’s devotion to her work, whether it requires her to stay after hours or instructing her class remotely while traveling to drop her son off at college. Her success has also been recognized through her achievements. She received the Outstanding Educator of Pike Road Schools (2015-16), the WSFA News Class Act Award (2012), Accelerated Reader Award (2007-2014) Teacher of the Year at Wynton Blount Elementary School (2007-08), and Outstanding Teacher of the Year by Montgomery County PTA (2007-08).

Hampton credits the university for giving her lessons that aided her in her career, lessons that did not necessarily come during her classes.

“If I had to do it all over again, I would definitely choose ASU because all of the book knowledge in the world does not prepare you to be a teacher,” Hampton said. “I feel like

those rough patches at ASU definitely prepared me for that classroom. Ole Mother Dear provided the life skills of flexibility, patience, and respect that is needed to be a successful leader in the classroom.”

Hampton does offer some words of wisdom for current Alabama State students.

“The first rule is to never give up,” Hampton said. “The second rule is to always remember number one – number one being God and a high faith.”

She references Proverbs 3:5-7 as scripture that students to think about as they continue their journey.

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths …”

As a woman who once stood in the same shoes, hallways, and at the same professors’ desks, she urges students to keep their heads high and trust the journey.

“The storms are going to come … but when they come, if you are rooted in Christ, you do not have anything to worry about,” Hampton said. “His will shall be done, and if it is meant to be then it shall.”