‘I realized I could be an effective teacher for all students.’
Wayne White, Amityville
“I decided to get my master’s in education because I had reverse motivation. When I was growing up, I had a teacher who wasn’t good, and I always thought I could be a much better teacher. I’ve been teaching at Bellport High School for 22 years and I currently teach AP U.S. history.
“When I first started teaching, being a Black male, it felt like I had been hired to help Black students pass. I received an award from Farmingdale College after I was nominated by a former student, who I impacted. It was a white student, and it blew my mind because it was a quiet student and I never expected it from him. That’s when I realized I could be an effective teacher for all students.
“It changed my whole outlook on teaching. It opened my eyes to see I had an effect not just on students of color. I’m also in my fifth term as president of Bellport Teachers Association.
“When I started teaching AP, I was the only Black teacher in social studies for a while; there are a few more now. I’ve seen the number of students of color in AP go up, and I’ve heard from Black and white students that they took the AP class so they could have their first Black teacher.
“One of my most memorable students is a student who in ninth grade wasn’t doing well; he was not focused, so I sat down and spoke to him.
“He went from being left back in eighth grade to graduating in the National Honor Society and is now a world-renown photographer. He’s one of those people you needed time to get to know, and he’s one of my most memorable students. He always had the potential. It just needed to be unlocked.
I’m involved with a team to create a roadmap for how districts can address the diverse needs of our children and families by looking at the complex system of structural inequalities and biases. I have some too, and I have to fight through them, but as long as I’m aware of it, I can fight it.
“I’m also director-at-large for New York State United Teachers, and I’m involved with a team to create a roadmap for how districts can address the diverse needs of our children and families by looking at the complex system of structural inequalities and biases.
“I have some too, and I have to fight through them, but as long as I’m aware of it, I can fight it. It’s important to know what other people are going through. I’m not the person you would expect me to be when you look at me. You have to get to know me a little bit better.
“I’m starting to see now that recently people’s ears are opening up, which is a good thing.”
The person profiled here has been a guest on Newsday Live.
Interviewed by Rachel O’Brien – Morano