- Alumni Spotlight
Toni Floyd, a Hattiesburg High School 1978 graduate, was an enthusiastic cheerleader, elected homecoming maid, and excelled in all home economics classes under her favorite teacher, Mrs. Billie Williams. Floyd is a 1982 graduate of The University of Southern Mississippi with a B.S. in Home Economics Education. She also holds health, Family and Consumer Science, and CTE Culinary Arts teaching certifications. She's also a licensed National Servsafe Manager Course and Exam instructor. Toni's love for cooking, entertaining, and hospitality began at HHS through the influence of her Home Economics teacher, Mrs. Billie Williams, and her mom, Joyce Tadlock.
During her freshman year at USM, she fell in love with Steve Floyd, a fellow friend and HHS classmate. They were married in 1982 and proceeded to make several moves around the country as they sought to build Steve's career in construction and commercial real estate. In 1994, Toni & Steve were living in Charlotte, N.C., but decided to move back to Hattiesburg when Steve took on reorganizing and renovating the Cloverleaf Mall and adjacent land.
During their various moves, Toni taught in Biloxi, MS, Monroe, LA, Charlotte, N.C., and Columbia, MS, before accepting the position three years ago as the Culinary Arts Instructor for the Career and Tech Program at her alma mater, Hattiesburg High School, in Hattiesburg, MS.
Toni taught for eight years from 1983-1991, leaving the profession in 1991 to stay home to raise their three children. Toni returned for the "2nd half" of her career in 2011 when her children started leaving the nest for college. Toni describes it as a "blessing to be back in the classroom again, working with teenagers, in a field that she loves." In the years that Toni stayed at home, she was constantly cooking, baking, and entertaining. Floyd supported her husband's business and his many years of community involvement as he worked to make Hattiesburg a brighter place. During her years at home, Toni started a home-based cheese straw business, "Toni's Cheese Straws," using her sweet Momma's recipe that beckons back to 1963.
Toni's highlight of each day is interacting with the teenagers in her classes. She loves teaching them about life lessons, hospitality, and social skills and always throws in healthy ways of dealing with stress and difficulties that they will encounter in their lives. Toni says she "has learned so much more from the incredible young people she teaches."
The highlights of Toni's career in the past ten years have been receiving the honor from several senior classes of Columbia High School of being selected as one of the "most influential teachers." She was honored to be chosen as the "most influential teacher" by three different senior baseball players at CHS and presented at Senior Night by those players. This past year, perhaps the ultimate designation for any teacher was being selected as "2021 Star Teacher" by the Star Student at Hattiesburg High School, Rachel Johnson. The star student is chosen based on their grades, ACT score, and activities. They can select any teacher from kindergarten to 12th grade who made the most significant impact in their life. Rachel and Toni traveled to Jackson, where they were honored among the other Star Students and Teachers in Mississippi.
Toni is thankful for being called back to her Alma mater to teach Culinary Arts, as she feels it brought her "home." She and Steve worked tirelessly for the past three years getting the Culinary facility painted and decorated so that it feels welcoming for all. A year ago, Toni went through the greatest heartache and shock when Steve passed away from a sudden heart attack. She is so thankful that her students and fellow teachers have been so understanding, and their kindness to her has gotten her through the difficult days as she continues to grieve her beloved Steve. Because of Steve's unwavering devotion to Hattiesburg High, his usual weekly efforts to help decorate and maintain the Culinary facility, as well as his volunteering with students to demonstrate proper knife skills in preparation for Toni's gumbo, Friends and fellow graduates of HHS, are starting the Steve Floyd Culinary Arts Scholarship, with the first recipient selected in Spring 2023.
Toni has felt a rewarding sense of accomplishment to work with students and fellow teachers and to be a part of the accountability improvements that moved HHS from an F to a B school rating on the State Department of Education's grade scale.