Nancy Worley has been an influencer in the state of Alabama for over forty years.
Worley, a lifelong resident of the Yellowhammer State, grew up in New Hope, Ala. on a family farm. She attended the University of Montevallo receiving her Bachelors degree in 1973; then continued her education at Jacksonville State University, obtaining a Master’s degree in 1975.
After graduation Worley taught in the public school system in Decatur for 25 years. In addition to teaching English and Latin she was very active in the school, sponsoring and leading numerous professional and civic organizations, student clubs, as well as coaching the cheerleaders. Worley also fundraised for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and American Heart Association. All the while also teaching part-time for Northeast State Community College and John C. Calhoun Community College.
Her work within the Decatur school system earned her the Teacher of the Year award. Twice. She was also nominated to the Teacher Hall of Fame. The Alabama Jaycees, a Junior Chamber civic organization, recognized Worley as Alabama’s Outstanding Young Educator, and Good Housekeeping magazine honored her as one of the “100 Young Women of Promise.”
Worley received several more honors and awards including being named by The Decatur Daily as one of the “Twenty Leaders of Decatur,” the Alumnus of the Year honor at the University of Montevallo, and the Education Award by the Alabama Senior Citizens Hall of Fame.
Worley’s career in leadership began in 1983 when she was elected statewide to serve as President of the Alabama Education Association, she later won this election again and served from 1995-1997. She held many leadership positions since then, serving four terms on the Alabama Democratic Executive Committee; State President of the Association of Classroom Teachers, twice, and twice as State President of the American Association of University Women (AAUW).
She was also the President of the Decatur Education Association, the Alabama Foreign Language Teachers Association, Alabama Classical Association and the Opportunity Toastmistress Club.
Career of public service
From 2002-2007 Worley served as the Alabama Secretary of State implementing substantial reforms to voting practices including longer and uniform polling hours, voter identification, and automatic recounts in close races.
Worley previously served on the Welfare Reform task force, the Education Reform task force, the Lt. Governor’s Legislative Council, and the Tuition Eligibility Board. She spent time lobbying with the AARP Capital City Task Force on Senior Citizen issues, and worked with retired educators from The Alabama Retired Teachers’ Association, and was one of only seven super delegates to the 2016 Democratic National Convention from Alabama.
In 2007, Worley became vice-chair of the Alabama Democratic Party until 2013 when she was elected to serve as the party’s chairman; a position she has continued to hold.
Worley is a woman who is absolutely dedicated to serving others, and her many years of experience in education and politics speak for themselves; but just in case you needed to hear directly from her, she was kind enough to answer some of Alabama Today’s questions about her life, work and influences:
How have other women influenced your success?
Several women in my family, along with numerous female teachers, church, community, civic and political leaders taught me the value of hard work, the importance of education, the need for involvement in community and causes, and respect for the dignity of all persons.
Looking back over my life, these women “took me under their wing,” and nourished, protected, promoted, and pushed me to set goals, and work to achieve those goals.
What shaped your desire to work with education and government?
Several family members were educators, and a few were involved in government; therefore, I grew up knowing that both professions made a difference in many lives. I began my professional career as an educator with a strong desire to make a difference, to enhance young minds, to move students forward and to see them succeed.
Although my career as an educator was quite fulfilling, I realized that government also played a large role, perhaps a larger role, in making a difference. After all, government controls our economic well being, our basic health needs, our access to public education, the quality of air we breathe, the cleanliness of the water we drink, the affordability of housing, etc..; therefore, I became involved in government to make a difference.
What has been your favorite area of service, and what is your favorite thing about that position?
I have enjoyed all my positions of service; however, every job has its good days and its bad days. I loved the classroom (most days), and I will always be an educator “at heart,” but I am equally inspired by how much government can do to help others.
Have you read any books that have shaped your perspective on life?
I grew up with a Mother who took me to church “every time the door was open”; therefore, at an early age, the Bible and its teachings certainly shaped my perspective on life. I studied and taught English and Latin; therefore, classical to modern authors/books also shaped my perspective on life.
What advice would you give to young women who want to work in education or politics?
My best advice to young women who want to work in education or politics is listen and study at home, in school and beyond, learn as much as possible about a variety of subjects, get involved in the community in which one lives, work hard with the “perfection ethic” as a guide to complete any job, no matter how menial, and always try to do what is right, to the best of one’s ability.
How do you spend your (rare) free time?
My free time is rare; however, I enjoy reading a magazine or book, attending the theatre, a concert, etc., going to a place I’ve never been, from a “tourist trap” to an isolated location, sitting and talking with a friend in a restaurant, or hearing an excellent speaker, panel, etc