Faces of Long Island celebrates the uniqueness of everyday Long Islanders. In their own words, they tell us about their life experiences, challenges and triumphs. Newsday launched this social media journey into the human experience to shine a light on the diverse people of this wonderful place we call home.

‘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.”

‘Every woman has a little black dress; so does every drag queen. The difference is, we cover it in stones and sequins.’

Amityville

“For 30 years, it seems that any time I have ever done anything within the theater I have been the one to be asked to dress in drag. Seven years ago, I won an award at the Fresh Fruit Festival for the best featured drag performance, and that was the catalyst for what was to come. Honestly, there is no difference between my drag persona and myself. I just think she happens to be a manifestation of all the things that I normally do: I work for a theater company, I do costumes and make-up, I teach dance, and I am a performer. I do all that encompasses what most drag entertainers do, which is be their own producer, director, choreographer, etc. She is just an amalgam of me. When I sit in front of a mirror and put on all of my make-up, I just see me in a different way with a little extra. My look is inspired by the classic movie-musical and that vintage 40s, 50s feel. I’m also a 70s baby so I grew up around the disco and the 80s. She is a modern twist on all of that. Make-up seems complicated, but it is not. If you had a coloring book as a kid, it’s essentially the same.

We wouldn’t have theater without drag. It’s an historical thing as opposed to it just being a gay thing.

“With me doing this art, it’s about me taking my male look and making it feminine to present it on the stage. I’m still buying $8 tubes of lipstick, mascara and blush, the things most women buy at the drugstore while hemming and hawing over the best products. I’m a costumer so I can also sew, but I prefer to shop. With drag, you don’t have to break the bank to look nice, you just have to know about basic fashion. Every woman has a little black dress; so does every drag queen. The difference is, we cover it in stones and sequins. No one is surprised when people hear that I do drag. Nowadays it’s the norm; it’s not like it was 10 years ago, before Drag Race and RuPaul, with all of the stigma that came along with it because no one understood what it was.

“We wouldn’t have theater without drag. It’s an historical thing as opposed to it just being a gay thing. My go-to song is “Buttons” by The Pussycat Dolls. It’s a song that’s exciting for people to hear, it’s recognizable, and they enjoy it. Now that I’m on the other side of 40, I decided I’m just going to do things that I really enjoy.”