Gladys Whitehead was born in Flemington, Florida in 1950. Her mother Dorothy Clark, and her stepfather, Arthur Lee "Polly" Frasier, raised her and her five siblings on a produce farm. Frasier also managed two clubs in the country until he died of a heart attack. At the time of his death, Whitehead was 16 years old.
Whitehead was her mother's oldest child, but she was second born. Dorothy Clark's first child died soon after birth. This child and Whitehead were delivered by a midwife, their maternal grandmother, Gladys Clark. Whitehead's biological father, James Gaskin, served in the army. He and Dorothy separated during Whitehead's elementary school years.
Whitehead attended a grade school that was not integrated. She really liked math and her eighth grade teacher and his wife, who were mathematicians, encouraged her. It seems that mathematics was one of the subjects that kept her interest academically. During in-class mathematics competitions, the other students always wanted to be on her team. Although Dorothy Clark had not finished high school due to her first pregnancy, she always had very good academic skills, and placed a high value on Education.
Whitehead completed high school, and enrolled at Florida A & M University in Tallahassee. She matriculated with a scholarship, her mind set on achieving the Educational goal of getting a college degree. Whitehead wanted to study mathematics. The mathematics department was encouraging, and in 1972 she graduated with a BS in Mathematics. Simultaneously, her mother, earned and received her GED. Dorothy Clark went on to become a social worker. She died in 1993.
Upon graduation Whitehead took a teaching position at South Miami Senior High School. She thought it was one of the hardest things she ever had to do, and often thought of quitting. Again her mother's encouragement pushed her forward. Whitehead recalls that Dorothy Clark would often say, "If you can change one child, it is worth the effort."
A strong desire to continue her Education motivated Whitehead to pursue a Master's degree. Consequently, she attended night and summer classes until she earned a MS in Mathematics Education from Florida International University, in 1975. Whitehead changed her career and took a position at Miami-Dade Community College, where she stayed for two years.
She began to consider pursuing her doctorate, a notion that was often encouraged by her department chair, William Palow. During this time she met and married her husband, George Whitehead, a general manager in a retail chain. His career brought the new couple to Georgia, and so Whitehead applied and was accepted to the doctoral program at Georgia State University. Her dissertation was on "Routine Word Problems in Two Variables and Metacognitive Strategies."
It took Whitehead eight years to complete her degree. Over this period, she gave birth to two children and concurrently taught full time at Clayton State College in Morrow, Georgia. She taught there long enough to qualify for tenure and the same day they offered it to her, her husband's company transferred him to Washington DC.
Whitehead found a wealth of resources in Washington. After teaching for one year at The American University, she moved to Prince George's Community College (PGCC), where she is presently the liaison between PGCC and the Mathematics Department of Prince George's County's secondary and elementary schools, Whitehead provides in-services that help to keep teachers up to date with the current trends in mathematics Education. Her goal is to transform the standards set by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) into workable activities for teachers at all levels of the public Educational system.
In addition to the demand of school responsibilities and the commitment she makes to her family, Whitehead is involved with her church. Once a week she spends time tutoring children with their mathematics.