By Ryan Michaels
The Birmingham Times
The key to being a good educator is simple, said the Alabama Teacher of the Year on Friday.
“Even though it’s ‘hard’ work, it is ‘heart’ work, and I put my heart and soul into everything I do to make a difference in the lives of the children…,” said Reggie White, a fifth-grade math and science teacher at Booker T. Washington K-8 School in Birmingham’s Titusville community. “You’ve got to love the children. You’ve got to come ready to engage them, let them have fun and just have a great experience at learning.”
White was named TOY last week and on Friday was honored during a parade where students danced and waved flags while circling the school’s campus.
He was also presented with the keys to a 2022 Chevrolet Traverse, which he will travel the state for the next year and visit other schools.
“After this process is over, I certainly hope to come back to [BCS] and take what I’ve learned . . . and just pour it into Birmingham city. Because Birmingham has poured so much into me,” White said.
While White will be serving as a statewide ambassador for education, he will also be representing Alabama on the national stage, said Eric Mackey, superintendent of the Alabama State Board of Education.
“In just a few months, he’ll be traveling to Washington, and we do hope that he will be another finalist from Alabama for Teacher of the Year…only one time have we [Alabama] had the national Teacher of the Year, and I would think that we have as good a shot now as we have ever had,” Mackey said.
Antonia Ishman, principal of Washington, said the greatness of “Mr. White’s, and all the teachers across” Alabama is the same greatness that will continue to nurture students.
BCS Superintendent Mark Sullivan said his own mother taught at Washington for 27 years and that White is an example of the best the system has to offer and it shows in White’s classroom.
“I could tell he was going to be a winner just by the way his students reacted to him and the way he reacted to his students,” the schools chief said.
State Sen. Rodger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, who was among several city and state officials at the event, said White gives Black boys a Black male teacher as a role model.
“Many of these young people don’t see what you represent, they don’t get a chance to see you,” Smitherman told the educator. “I didn’t say they don’t get a chance to see a male — they don’t get a chance to see what you represent. And that’s what’s important for them to be able to understand…They’re comprehending what it means to be the kind of person that you are,” Smitherman said.
Yvette Richardson, vice president on the state board of education and representative for the Birmingham-area district, said she was “elated” to celebrate White and pointed to the importance of his life-changing work.
“One hundred years from now, it won’t matter what type of clothes we wore, the type of car we drove or the kind of house we live in, but what will matter is that we make a difference in the lives of children,” she said.