Whitehead named South Central Regional Teacher of Year

Friday, March 13, 2015
Mike Whitehead with his first block ACT Prep class at Marshall County High School Thursday morning.

By Ivory Riner

Staff Writer

Mike Whitehead has a reason to celebrate this weekend after being named the South Central Regional Teacher of the Year Thursday morning.

While testing his American College Testing (ACT) Prep class yesterday morning, a voice came over the intercom.

"I am really sorry to interrupt, but we have guests in the building who would like to congratulate Mike Whitehead," said the voice.

Whitehead began teaching at Marshall County High School through the Teach Tennessee Program nine years ago.

The Teach Tennessee program was Gov. Phil Bredesen's initiative to recruit more math, science and foreign language teachers in the state.

The program recruited and trained mid-career professionals who wished to teach in critical subject areas in grades seven through 12.

"Mike is an outstanding asset to the school system. I am not the least bit surprised he has been awarded this honor," Marshall County Director of Schools Jackie Abernathy said.

Whitehead currently serves as a member and leader of the county-wide Algebra II Professional Learning Community team, is a representative on the Director's Advisory Council and is the Leo Club advisor at MCHS.

During the 2010-2011 school year, he was selected as the MCHS teacher of the year and the district high school teacher of the year. He was again MCHS teacher of the year during the 2013-2014 school year.

Before his teaching career, he spent 13 years in the business world and three as a full-time youth minister.

"I have discovered that teaching is one of the most rewarding careers anyone could have. It's not completely about imparting content knowledge to students," said Whitehead.

"I believe teaching is more about coaching, encouraging and molding students to achieve their best."

He has a difficult time calling himself an outstanding teacher because he constantly self-evaluates and realizes there are many more things he could do for his students. Although he has received many awards over the past five years, his most memorable was during a pep rally at the school.

Before prayer, the football coach at the time asked the players to select a teacher who had made the most difference in their lives and bring them to the floor. Whitehead was honored when one of his former students pointed to him. The student struggled with algebra and failed the Gateway exam that he needed to pass to graduate.

"It hurt me that he didn't make it, and I knew he would be upset so I couldn't bear to tell him the news during class," said Whitehead.

The student later passed his Gateway exam that summer after Whitehead spent many hours working with him.

Whitehead was chosen for the prestigious award over teachers from 16 school districts and is the second teacher in Marshall County to be so honored. Elaine Huffines, who taught at Forrest School, was the first to receive the award.