I Made the Decision to Feed My Soul

Growing up, I loved colorful pens and sticky pads. The Scholastic book fair was better than any field trip for me. Every July, I would sneak down the school supply aisle to smell boxes of 96 count crayons with the little sharpener in the back; but I never wanted to be a teacher. I just wanted to “help people” in the medical sense. Graduating from the University of MS Medical Center and working six years at Forrest General Hospital as a neuro occupational therapist fit that bill. I was good at my job and I loved treating patients who had deficits from strokes, traumatic brain, and spinal cord injuries. There was gratification in knowing that after 3 weeks, from working with me three hours a day, patients would re-learn to dance, feed themselves, or return to work with independence. I loved taking students for their internships and teaching them everything about my job I was so very passionate about. That all changed in December of 2014, when a tornado hit the daycare with my 12 week old baby inside.

As my co-workers rallied around me, we waited to know the status of my baby. My husband rushed through the destruction and impassable roads to my new son, who was an hour away from me. I realized then, I was helpless. I was unable to be with my husband, sons, or the community who needed me.

At that moment, I knew I needed to be where I could make an impact on those I loved the most, my community. When I heard the cry of a blessed, wet baby, I made the decision to feed my soul, not my pocketbook. I became an alternate route teacher.

TEACHER with her family

Going through the program at William Carey gave me the foundation I needed to begin my journey. But what makes me a great teacher is knowing I am never great without the team I am surrounded by and the administration leading me. I have life skills and an “outside the box” approach to my teaching that has been successful reaching students that doubt themselves, hate to read, and need to just sometimes “dance a little.” My background as an occupational therapist makes Room 12 look a little different than others. I employ flexible seating, we learn through raps and chants, and cursive can’t be taught without some old school music videos. 

Mrs. Whittington teaches a lesson in her classroom that she planned with some of her medical training on a text about heart anatomy.
teacher teaching kids

People often think that a teaching degree from the best educational university is a must to be a successful teacher, and it helps, but it is not a requirement. Loving children despite themselves on their worst days, reaching out to others to help you, and always striving to be the best for yourself and your students are what gives a solid foundation for a successful teaching career. I am six years in and thankful each day for that tornado.

Danielle Whittington

4th Grade Reading
Columbia Elementary
Columbia School District

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