Position: JROTC instructor, 9-12 School: SouthWest Edgecombe High School
School District: Edgecombe County Public Schools
City, State: Pinetops, North Carolina
About the Nominee: Col. Mike Whitehurst was nominated by a colleague, Shelley Armour.
Colonel Whitehurst is a LifeChanger in so many ways at SouthWest Edgecombe High School. He is a reliable standard that teachers aspire to, and he is always willing to help with school projects. With these projects, he is often able to incorporate his jROTC cadets, instilling in them the values of community service and pride in their school. He spends the summer, by his own choosing, painting the school so that SouthWest Edgecombe High School has a fresh coat of paint every year and a clean exterior. His cadets maintain this level of cleanliness during the school year. Every week, they can be found with wheelbarrows and rakes picking up trash, pine cones and fluffing pine straw under trees. Col. Whitehurst saw that SouthWest Edgecombe's hardworking custodians and the district maintenance team needed help and, like the professional he is, he worked to provide it.
Col. Whitehurst is an exemplar in the school of demonstrating constant, consistent leadership. He also shares this role with his cadets so that they can model his behavior. He holds himself and cadets to high moral and ethical standards as demonstrated in the Air Force core values: “Integrity first, Service before self, and Excellence in all we do.” Col. Whitehurst's nominator, Ms. Armour, says she will never forget the first thing that he said to her when she started at this school: “Welcome Home.” This school is a second home for many teachers and students. It's LifeChangers like Col. Whitehurst that make it a safe and appealing place to work and learn.
Col. Whitehurst has won Teacher of the Month at SouthWest Edgecombe several times. This award is selected by fellow teachers. He has also won Bright Ideas grants on a yearly basis in order to have funding to enrich his curriculum by having students build, and shoot off, rockets. This is the highlight for many students each semester. Without Col. Whitehurst’s willingness to go beyond and seek out funding it would not happen.
One identifying quality of a LifeChanger in the school system is the respect given to them by peers and their students. His peers find it easy to respect Col. Whitehurst. He is honest and hardworking; colleagues always know where they stand with him and where he stands on a topic. There is no “fluff,” but there is always respect. His cadets also respect him. They may not always like him, but they have learned to respect him. It is not his military title, but the fact that he is always honest with his cadets and willing to work as hard as he demands they do. Col. Whitehurst is not a ‘stand in the front of the room’ instructor. He is engaged and, as a result, he engages his cadets. One see a change in his cadets every year; they grow and develop self-confidence each semester they are in his class. They have increasing amounts of pride.
When a cadet graduates from SouthWest Edgecombe, their time with Col. Whitehurst doesn’t end there. For those that desire to, they stay in contact with him as they take on life post-high school, whether it be in the military, college or workforce. His support for his students never ends and that is reflected in the respect they give him, even after high school. He continues to be a mentor and supporter of his cadets.
When Ms. Armour first heard about LifeChanger of the Year, Col. Whitehurst immediately came to mind. He is a LifeChanger in his school and district, and his impact has a reach that goes far beyond his classroom.