Her calming tone and demeanor create a space for her students that makes them feel loved, and safe, and helps them thrive. It’s part of what makes St. Stephen Elementary School teacher Mrs. Kimberley Whitaker our Cool School Teacher of the week.

Mrs. Kimberley Whitaker’s relationship with her students melts the heart and gives students an appetite for knowledge.  The class starts every day with affirmation at the Leader in Me School.

The Army War veteran who has been a teacher for 20 years describes her teaching style as an empowering coach, offering ways for students to grow through questioning, demonstrations, and interactive lessons.  

Students talk through their strategies and feel comfortable admitting to mistakes. “We make this a safe space, so we’re able to grow and not have that fear of math or anything that sometimes students have. We work cooperatively here,” explained Whitaker.

“Her tone is very soft, and she’s always calm so that’s what makes us feel comfortable,” said fourth-grade student Kyleigh Wright.

Whitaker uses her own personal affirmation with her students, as she urges them all to be like hot cheese, meaning the absolute best.  

“Hot Cheese is something that’s personal to me. It’s a model I share with my class. When you think about the things that you like with cheese on it, if you like macaroni, you want that cheese hot. If you have nachos, you want that cheese hot. If you have a grilled cheese sandwich, you want that cheese hot. So every time usually when you’re having cheese, you want that cheese hot, so in here we are always striving to be ‘Hot Cheese.’ We’re doing our best at all times.”  

Her students are biting into this state of mind, a feeling of greatness within themselves.  

“One thing I try to strive with my children, we speak success into ourselves,” said Whitaker.

Fourth-grade student Tyler Weaver says, “I think Mrs. Whitaker is a great teacher, and she’s like family to me.”

Mrs. Whitaker has spent twenty years in education, four here at SSE.  Assistant principal Erica  VanBeek says, “I love Mrs. Whitaker. She’s an awesome teacher.  You can see that, but what makes her stand out above everybody else as you can tell by her students is the relationships she builds with her kids.  When they’re sick, she goes to their house.  She calls them all on Christmas day and tells them Merry Christmas. If they’re misbehaving on the bus, she rides the bus home with them.  She builds strong relationships that last not just one-hundred-eighty days, they last well past the school year.  She volunteers for bus duty every year because she says I’m going to be out at those busses to make sure my babies are being good.”

Whitaker says she’s blessed to call herself a teacher and became emotional when talking about her students.  

“My hope for them is that when they leave here they know I wanted them to be here.  I tell them every day, even when they do something that I might not have been happy with that Mrs. Whitaker loves them no matter what,” she said. “For me, I hope when they leave here they not only remember the lessons I taught them, they not only remember we talked about adjectives or nouns, that they know they are a part of me and I always want them to be their best, not just when they’re here, not just when they’re in my class, but always.”

If you would like to nominate a Cool School or educator, send an email to Octavia Mitchell at omitchell@wcbd.com.