‘I’m just a product of my environment,’ WCCA’s Whitaker voted most amazing teacher

Published 7:30 am Saturday, March 26, 2022

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

WOODVILLE — Amazing is one word to describe the A+mazing Teacher of the Month award recipient CJ Whitaker from Wilkinson County Christian Academy.

Whitaker said that’s because she is surrounded by other amazing teachers who have her back through the best and worst of times.

“I’m just a product of my environment,” Whitaker said. “I’m surrounded by amazing teachers. I have those who will step up to encourage you and you also have those that kind of pave the way.”

Email newsletter signup

A pool of online voters named Whitaker the most A+mazing Teacher of the Month at the elementary school level. The contest is sponsored by Sabrina Dore’ of Shelter Insurance Agency and The Democrat.

“It’s an honor and I feel so blessed but I’m blown away at the same time,” Whitaker said of getting the most votes in the contest.

She has been teaching fourth grade for six years and before taught pre-kindergarten all at WCCA. Whitaker started teaching pre-kindergarten before having children of her own. When her oldest, who is now 11, started school she started teaching at the fourth-grade level, she said.

“I love it. They’re young enough that they still love you and want to please you but old enough to be independent,” she said.

When she is not teaching, Whitaker said she is usually taking care of her three children, including another girl who is nine and a seven-year-old son.

“I’m a softball coach for my girls and I’m the chauffeur to all of their sporting events,” she said.

When she isn’t at school or softball practice or games, she is usually at church, where her husband Warren is a pastor, she said.

One thing that sets Whitaker apart as a teacher is she tries to make learning fun.

“I feel like education is not just sitting at a desk doing bookwork,” she said. “You want to try and reach all the levels of learning, even if it’s having to make a game out of something. There are so many ways to teach that is not just sitting there lecturing. Making it fun and something they want to do is my goal.”

The best part, Whitaker said, is when students “get it.”

“When you’re teaching your heart out and they get it, it’s like this light bulb goes off in their head and they’re proud of themselves for getting it,” she said. “That is by far the best part.”

The hardest part of teaching, she said, is reaching students and giving them that motivation to learn. This was especially true during COVID when students were learning from home. Even in a tightknit school in a small community such as Woodville, where parents, students and teachers are like family, Whitaker said it was hard to connect with her kids only through a window or screen.

“They feel like family so they have our cell phones and could still call us and get that one-on-one time even if we couldn’t be in the same room with them,” she said.

The one thing that keeps her going through the most challenging situations is encouragement from others, Whitaker said.

“My coworkers are so encouraging and loving that I wouldn’t be able to do it without them,” she said. “We also have a great headmaster. I feel like students want to perform for the people that they love and as a school, we want the best for them.”