Teacher of the Week: Mike White | Chatham Middle School

Posted 9/13/19

This week, we introduce our regular "Teacher of the Week" feature. We start off by getting to know Chatham Middle School art instructor Mike White.

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Teacher of the Week: Mike White | Chatham Middle School

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Chatham Educator of the Week

School: Chatham Middle School

Grades/subjects you teach: 6th-8th Art

E-mail address: mwhite@chatham.k12.nc.us

Date, place of birth: Dec. 18, 1972, in Portsmouth, Virginia

Education (high school & college attended, degrees): Portsmouth East High School, Columbus College of Art and Design and Capital University, BA

Brief work history: Worked at Columbus City Schools for most of my 13 years. I was a professional BASS fishermen for two yearswn, and owned a landscaping and construction business.

Teaching honors/awards: Teacher of the Year at CMS for 2018-2019. Started the first elementary debate club in Columbus, created a Business Club in elementary, and I’ve done several in-services around the country about teaching art and how the arts can integrate into the classroom.

Hobbies/interests outside teaching: Camping, fishing, boating

Family: Rebecca (wife), Austin (son)

On teaching:

What led you to a career as a teacher?

My high school art (teacher) turned my art work into a college (without me knowing) and I received a scholarship to attend Columbus College of Art and Design. While I was in college I knew I wanted to teach because of the kindness and belief in me that my art teacher showed to me and I wanted to do the same to other kids out there.

Who were your favorite teachers as you went through school, and what did you learn from them?

Mrs. Spradlin was my art teacher in high school. She showed me about that she cared about all her students and believed they could accomplish anything.

Has becoming a teacher been all you expected it would be?

Yes and no. Teaching is not just the teaching your subject. It about being a great listener, being a cheerleader when your kids struggle and being that rock when life is unfair.

How has teaching changed since you were a student?

The biggest change for me is technology. I’m still old school paper pencil guy, but I’m learning.

What “makes your day” as a teacher?

When I see my kids succeed, the light come on and I have to run them out of the class because they are so focused.

What’s working in schools today?

I see schools more of focus on the kids on a personal level. Schools are wanting teachers to build rapport with students and understand where they come from.

What’s not working?

The focus on scores and the pressure that students feel.

What’s your favorite memory of your first year as a teacher?

When I walked into the first classroom with students and said, “I’m Mr. White and I will be your art teacher this year,” I just stopped and realized I made it.

How would your “teacher” persona handle you as a student?

I would have been pushed and pushed myself as a student. I would have showed I cared and not take my lazy attitude toward school.

Best piece of advice for other teachers?

Never stop learning. You are a lifelong learner. The students in your class are not “your students” they are “your kids.”

For students?

Have fun in school. Take every opportunity that comes along and go for it. Trust your teachers that they want the best for you. Know that teachers care about you!!!!

For parents?

Trust that teachers have the best interest for your kids and that we only want them to succeed in school and in life.

If you were superintendent for a day, you’d:

Go to random schools in the district (with no media) and just visit classrooms, see what is really happening and shake teachers’ and students’ hands and say, “THANK YOU.”

What about your job would surprise your non-teaching friends the most?

What surprises them the most is that I’m an art teacher. Most think I teach history or math. I tell them, “Yes, I can talk about a building a house and about a painting in a museum.”

If you could somehow magically instill one truth into the heads of your students, what would it be?

That teachers truly want you to succeed and want you do great things in your life.

When you think about today’s kids, you:

I see a kids today dealing with problems that I never dreamed of, I see kids working hard to overcome many disadvantages, I see kids taking opportunities and running with them, I see a GREAT future in our kids.

If one of your students was asked for a one-word description of you by a student who hadn’t had you in class, what would that one word be?

I would hope “caring,” but I think it would be “FUN.”

Favorite movie about school or teaching:

“Dangerous Minds”

How would you summarize your teaching philosophy?

Every kid can learn and they are all special. For me, I am a lifelong learner and take each day with my kids to try to make it positive for them.

What five things must every teacher know?

1. You must have a “Teacher Look.”
2. Always think about the question you ask your kids, because you can never assume what they will say
3. When you get any break, always go to the bathroom.
4. Take time to just listen to your kids.
5. Be real with your kids — they know when you are faking it.

What’s special about your classroom?

My classroom is always open. Students can come during lunch to work on art or just to chill out. My classroom is a safe place for students to take risks.

What’s special about your school?

That we are a diverse school and that we have a family feeling. Our students take pride in our school and know that teachers care.

Most unusual question you’ve ever gotten from a student?

During art class I had one of my kids ask, “Mr. White do you use the same shampoo my Dad uses? It helps my Dad grow hair in his bald spot.”


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