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Alabama Teacher of the Year lives ‘to see the sparkle go off in my students’ eyes’

Reggie White had to travel across the country, to San Jose, California, to realize he wanted to be a teacher.

White, who grew up in rural Choctaw County, was a communications major at Alabama State University in Montgomery in the 1990s. He joined the Baptist Student Union, and on a mission trip to California for the summer, White helped students learn English while mentoring their families on ways they could help improve the children’s reading skills and comprehension. That’s when teaching clicked for him.

When White returned home, he watched a television commercial that reinforced his new career path. The commercial targeted recruiting new teachers, and at the end a student issued a plea: “We need you!” White said he saw himself in the commercial and vowed to create a classroom where all students felt valued and were inspired to achieve their dreams.

Fast-forward to May 2022.

Reggie White is Alabama’s Teacher of the Year. (contributed)

White, a National Board-certified fifth-grade teacher at Booker T. Washington K-8 School in Birmingham City Schools, is the 2022-23 Alabama Teacher of the Year, the state’s highest honor for educators. He will serve as the state’s official ambassador for public education and the teaching profession and be Alabama’s candidate for the National Teacher of the Year Award.

The Alabama State Department of Education announced White for the honor last week from among 150 of Alabama’s best and brightest teachers considered for the award. William Edmonds, a teacher at Barton Academy for Advanced World Studies in the Mobile County Public School System, was named Alabama’s Alternate Teacher of the Year.

“Alabama Teacher of the Year Reggie White and State Alternate Teacher of the Year William Edmonds exemplify the professionalism of Alabama’s educators,” state Superintendent Dr. Eric Mackey said. “Both of these outstanding teachers embody classroom excellence.”

Birmingham City Schools Superintendent Dr. Mark Sullivan commended White for his dedication to teaching.

“The students and the families at Washington K-8 School say that Mr. White helps his students grasp difficult subjects, and he makes it interesting,” Sullivan said. “This is a great moment for Mr. White. He is passionate about educating our scholars, and he truly loves teaching.”

That love shows when he talks about “the magic that happens in my classes” because of the relationships he builds with his students.

“I live to see the sparkle go off in my students’ eyes,” he said in a video about him being chosen Birmingham City Schools Elementary Teacher of the Year. “I love to see them get something that they thought they couldn’t get, I love to see when they believe in themselves when they were doubting themselves.”

Reggie White, center, poses with Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin and school officials. (contributed)

White pushes students to overcome their doubt and believe in themselves.

“One thing I encourage my students to do every day is to believe in themselves, to believe that they can do anything, that they can accomplish anything, and when they see that and they believe it themselves, I get my joy, I get my peace, I get everything I need to continue to do what I do,” he said.

“I’m not in this for the money. I’m not in this for the fortune. I’m not in it for the fame. I’m in this for the kids, and I want them to be successful, and I’ll do anything to make that lightbulb go off for them.”

White credited Alabama State, where he has earned three degrees, with preparing him to succeed as a teacher.

“Alabama State University really helped to lay a solid educational foundation for me, which allowed me to build upon it all the way to the present, which ultimately contributed to helping me win this award,” White said in an ASU news release. “The university helped me strengthen my philosophy of teaching and learning and what it takes to be effective. So many great instructors impacted my life at Alabama State, and I still use what they taught me on campus today at Booker T. Washington K-8 School.”

For more information about the Alabama Teacher of the Year Program, click here.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

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