Overcoming challenges through positivity: North Park Teacher of the Year Billye Sue White
Life can be challenging. Changes bring uncertainty and can be scary. That is why Billye Sue White always encourages her second-grade students to “See the good, be the good.” White's students cheer together every morning and again at the end of the school day, “See the good, be the good, ready set go!” White explained that the purpose of this cheer is to help encourage her students to see the good in other people every day and to be the good in the world.
Throughout her 18 years of teaching, White has had the opportunity to attend many training sessions on being trauma-informed. These trainings have helped her understand her students better and discover ways to help ease the stress of school and homework. She strives to do this by reminding her students that they can push through and do difficult things. Because of reminders like their classroom cheer, the second grade classroom feels like a family—in a positive environment where students feel safe with each other and feel the support from their peers. At the end of each year, White gives each student a “hug blanket.” Students take time to hug each other’s blankets so that later, when a student is having a rough time, they can wrap the blanket around their shoulders and and feel a hug from Mrs. White and the rest of their classmates.
White focuses on teaching her students the social skills necessary to create a classroom family, such as how to be a good friend, how to respond appropriately when they’ve made a mistake, how to learn from mistakes, and to understand that it’s okay to make mistakes. Along with learning academics, these social skills are life lessons that help students communicate their feelings and to see their potential. “My goal is to help them succeed at life,” White explained. “Not just on a test, not just in my classroom—but to move forward with confidence.”
White is also passionate about teaching her students to be lifelong learners because learning doesn’t stop when you move grades or graduate; you will always be learning from lessons. Students can earn class money by following class rules, helping others, and being in leadership positions. When the students earn coins, they can put them towards a classroom party or they can trade them in for a story from Mrs. White. White will tell the class a story of some of the vacations she’s been on or stories about her family. She uses this opportunity to share the lessons she’s learned and build positive connections with her students. “There are so many ways other than just academics that kids need help,” White added. “If you have that relationship, you’re able to make a difference and influence them.”
Principal Jullie Payne appreciates the hard work and dedication White puts into teaching. “Billye Sue holds high expectations for her students and forms positive relationships with them that extends beyond the time she’s assigned as their teacher,” Payne observed. “They know she cares about their personal and academic success. Billye Sue is an active part of the school community, often finding ways to offer words of encouragement and support to her colleagues.”
White (shown with Principal Jullie Payne and board member Chris Corcoran)
was honored at the April 21, 2022 board meeting.