Source: AP - AP Wire Service
Oct 07 2019
Editors Note ( An AP Member Exchange for weekend use.) With AP Photos. FOR RELEASE SUNDAY, OCTOBER 6, 2019, AT 12:01 A.M. EDT.
By ANN MEYER AMEYER, Savannah Morning News
Savannah Morning News
SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) _ Garrison School for the Arts teacher Kathy Whitney's pickle trick is a favorite among students and district administrators.
She asks her students, ``Can a pickle light up?``
Invariably they say ``no,`` she said.
Then she performs an experiment where she splices a cord, wraps the wires around nails on opposite ends of a pickle and plugs it into a surge protector to show students how the sodium conducts electricity to produce a glowing pickle.
After that, Whitney tells her students, ``If a pickle can light up, you can do anything.``
For Whitney, a three-time Savannah-Chatham County school-level Teacher of the Year who was named District Teacher of the Year for 2020, the experiment serves as a reminder of what's possible for her students and teacher colleagues. The District Teacher of the Year is selected from a field of 56 school-level teachers of the year. The process takes the better part of a year, starting with peer nominations at each school. Winners then compete for the district honor through an application process that involves essays, interviews and a panel review.
- Contagious enthusiasm
``It's a contest your peers hand down,`` said school board member Connie Hall. The flag-raising ceremony at Garrison was an opportunity to recognize Whitney among her school community. Hall said she wished every student at Garrison would have Whitney as a teacher before they graduated from eighth grade. ``You never see her down. She's always enthusiastic. She's always bubbly. It's contagious.``
The teacher of the year program helps to keep teachers in Savannah-Chatham County public schools motivated. It's important ``to lift the teachers up, to keep them going, but also to let our community know how important the teachers are,`` said Tracy Larroude, assistant principal at Garrison. Larroude's own two children had Whitney as a teacher, she said. They enjoyed the postcards she sent them over the winter break. ``They loved getting their own mail because they never do,`` she said.
``If there was anyone who was born to teach, I'm not kidding, it's Kathy Whitney,`` she said. ``If you ever need to be lifted up, go see Mrs. Whitney.``
James Heater, the former principal of Garrison, said he moved Whitney from a kindergarten classroom to be a gifted and early-intervention teacher where she could impact 250 students and 10 to 12 teachers instead of just one classroom. Heater said he has worked with Whitney for 12 years, first at Spencer Elementary (now A.B. Williams), where she taught kindergarten, and then at Garrison.
``She is such a dynamic teacher. The energy she comes with is wonderful and real in wanting all kids to be successful,`` said Heater, interim executive director of middle and K-8 schools for SCCPSS. He recalled seeing Whitney pull students to the side and do ``everything she could do to get those students to be successful.``
- Three-time winner
For Whitney, who also was named a school-level winner at Spencer in 2006 and at Garrison in 2013, being honored as the District Teacher of the Year is ``pretty overwhelming,`` she said. ``I'm so honored. I'm so proud. I work with so many teachers and they're all fabulous.``
Whitney said she enjoys working with kindergarten and first-graders to help identify their strengths and weaknesses. Her goal is to help each student be successful. She encourages students to learn to read by ``letting them know it makes you laugh and cry,`` she said. She wants them to learn about dinosaurs and knights and castles, topics that will interest them.
Whitney's husband Joe Hul teaches science at Jenkins High School. ``One thing I love about Kathy is she is fully, fully committed to teaching and about education. She believes every child can achieve,`` he said.
To keep her lessons fresh, Whitney, Hul and their two boys took advantage of summers off to take driving vacations. One summer, they drove about 12,000 miles in nine weeks and visited national parks, Hul said. ``She's been teaching for 20 years and still looks for something new to do,`` he said.
- Memorable lessons
Garrison eighth-grader Ansley McKee described Whitney, her kindergarten teacher, as caring, kind, loving and passionate.
``I've never known a student who doesn't love her,`` McKee said. ``Whenever I see her in the hallway, she always has a smile on her face and stops and takes the time to say hello to her fellow teachers and students.`` She recalled Whitney bringing in pickles for a kindergarten unit on which parts of the tongue taste salty, sweet, sour and bitter. ``We had to eat a pickle. I did not like that,`` McKee said. But she remembers the lesson to this day.
Whitney told a reporter she uses the pickle-electricity trick for first-grade gifted students to remind her students of what's possible. ``For the rest of the year, they're not allowed to say, 'I can't.' They can say, 'I can't do it yet,' or 'I can do it later,'`` she said.
Information from: Savannah Morning News, http://www.savannahnow.com
Received Id AP1192775A106EDE on Oct 07 2019 10:28