Honored educator’s magical mission: Empower all students to reach their goals

From left, Indian River School District board of education member Jim Hudson, IRSD Superintendent Mark Steele, IRSD’s 2017-18 Teacher of the Year Lisa Richardson, IRSD’s 2018-19 Teacher of the Year Courtney White, State Rep. Ruth Briggs King, State Rep. Rich Collins and State Rep. Ron Gray.

GEORGETOWN — Courtney White’s employment journey has taken her from fundraising in the Charm City of Baltimore to teaching and an honored educator in Sussex County.

Not once, but twice.

A third-grade teacher at North Georgetown Elementary School, Ms. White emerged Indian River School District’s 2018-19 Teacher of the Year during the district’s annual Teacher of the Year celebration April 26. She was chosen from 16 building teachers of the year honorees.

It wasn’t her first Teacher of the Year honor. She was previously honored as the Seaford School District’s Teacher of the Year in 2010-11, during her tenure at Seaford from 2010-16 where she taught second grade and sixth grade.

Ms. White has been teaching third grade at North Georgetown Elementary since 2016.

Her classroom atmosphere has been described as “magical.”

“As a member of the North Georgetown Elementary community, Mrs. White is a leader and is well respected by her peers,” said North Georgetown Principal Heather Cramer. “There are many great educators in the Indian River School District that are more than worthy of this honor, but I have met few educators as passionate as Mrs. White. I feel she was an amazing addition to our district and we are lucky to have someone with the willingness to continue to learn and grow as an educator. Her classroom environment she has created is one that I wish my own child could have experienced.”

On the education front, Ms. White earned a bachelor’s degree in political science with a certification in fundraising and development from Goucher College and a master’s in applied technology from Wilmington University.

She earned a Maryland State Elementary Education Certificate from the College of Notre Dame in Baltimore.

Interestingly, teacher was not her initial career profession.

“I have been teaching for 15 years. This is the second career for me. Before teaching I was an annual fund coordinator in Baltimore, raising money for a local college — the College of Notre Dame,” said Ms. White. “When I was doing my work for the college, one of my positions was to work with college students on campus. That was my all-time favorite part of my position. With that in mind I realized that I needed to go back to school and take a look at what it could be like to be a teacher.”

“I wanted to focus on a goal path to what I was doing,” she said. “So, I had the opportunity while I was working there to take classes and then we moved to Eastern Shore where I started doing my student teaching and then had the opportunity to teach.”

Ms. White is right at home in the classroom.

“When I look out at my students at the beginning of every school year I look at those 24 or 25 students and I think to myself: ‘Who are they? Where do they end up on the spectrum?’ How can I help them achieve their goals?’” said Ms. White. “And my job is to help each of those students get empowered and reach their goals. We can do this by teaching our students that effort can help them achieve anything. And that they can be resilient in challenges that they face.”

Courtney White’s third-grade classroom at North Georgetown Elementary School has been described as “magical.”

In Ms. White’s classroom she does not hold the answers. The students do. It is evident the students are expected to make mistakes in order to learn and grow. Ms. White spends time building a culture of respect not only between her and the students but among the class.

“I got into this profession because it’s challenging, and we want to inspire students to learn and grow. But we need to make sure that we teach our students how to collaborate and work with their peers,” Ms. White said. “I expect that with this focus our students will know how to attack their unknown future. What I present doesn’t cost anything. It doesn’t distract them from the math and science or the social studies, it only enhances our students and it will impact their everyday life.”

Ms. White and husband Jim White, a technology integration specialist in the Seaford School District, have two children: Anna, age 12, and Cole, 15. Both children attend Sussex Academy in Georgetown.

During her career, Ms. White has been a Delaware Dream Team teacher in 2016, a TeachFest Delaware Spring Academy teacher in 2015 and the co-creator of the Personalized Virtual Summer and Intersession Academic Program at Central Elementary School in Seaford from 2014-16.

She has also served as an adjunct professor in the Wilmington University graduate program (2010-15), a mentor teacher for Wilmington’s student teaching program (2010-16) and an educational technology teacher for the Delaware Tech certificate program (2004-06).

This week’s People to Meet: Courtney White.

Your reaction when your name was called as Teacher of the Year?

“Absolute excitement and surprise, because of the amount of talent that I was surrounded by, with all of the other teachers from different buildings, teachers of the year, as well as teachers that were there to support the teachers of the year.”

Your teaching philosophy?

“My philosophy as far as teaching is that I am a facilitator in a classroom of teachers, and my students are the ones that are the educators. They are there to help each other reach their goals. I am there to guide them and to help them achieve their goals.

“But, it is really about helping my students achieve that hidden curriculum and their unknown future. I do that through the subjects of science, social studies and language arts and reading and math … to teach them the habits of mine so that they can find success wherever it is.”

Leisure time?

“My favorite thing to do is spend time with my family. My children are involved with the local community swim team. I support the swimmers and support my kids in their activities. And I love to garden and spend time outside.”

Plans for your future?

“I love being in the classroom. I had tried everything from second grade all the way up to classes at Wilmington University in their graduate level. I’ve had the opportunity to teach at the middle school level as well. At all different levels I just love being in the classroom and teaching individuals at all ages.”

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at grolfe@newszap.com

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