[sg_popup id=”7″ event=”onload”][/sg_popup]You probably know him by know as the man from the viral video where a teacher does individual handshakes with each one of his elementary school students before they enter the classroom, but did you know that Berry White Jr. is a Caflin University grad and a proud member of Kappa Alpha Psi?
We reached out to the 26-year-old viral school teacher from Charlotte and got an exclusive interview with him about his love for teaching, his thoughts about his fraternity, the internet fame that he has received over the past week and even his appearance on the Today Show.
You’ve become famous from the video of you doing unique handshakes with each one of your students. How did you come up with the handshake idea?
I first got the idea last year when a 4th grader would wait outside my door to do our handshake every morning. I was teaching 5th grade at the time. She would even risk getting in trouble for being late just to do a handshake with me. I saw how powerful that simple thing was to her and how much it meant for the rest of her day. I also follow Lebron James and his team; I watched how they would do their handshakes with each other all the time and how it showed their bond with each other. I wanted to apply that same concept and feeling to my entire 5th-grade cluster this year. So, at the beginning of the school year, I asked a few if they wanted to do a handshake and they jumped on the idea. The next thing you know another one wanted one and on and on the excitement was contagious, and it turned into this huge thing they were pumped up to do and would look forward to doing every day.
You just got featured on the Today Show because of the video, what was that experience like?
It was an amazing experience. Two of the best parts were 1) My parents got to come to the studio and even get on TV, that was powerful for me especially since I don’t get to see them often living in North Carolina, and 2) all of my students were watching because the school streamed it live and paused all instruction to watch me represent. I love that my students will forever have the moment they can share and talk about even to their kids when they get over about how they were in the 5th grade. That is amazing.
Not only are you becoming a bit of a celebrity because of the video, celebrities including Jamie Foxx, Plies, Monica, Tyrese and more have shared your video with kind thoughts on their social media pages. How does it feel?
The support has been surreal. I can’t even put into words how grateful, blessed and humbled I am. The fact that I just wake up and do what I love to do every day has had this kind of impact a real blessing.
You are a member of Kappa Alpha Psi, where and when did you cross?
I crossed Kappa Alpha Psi, Spring 2010 Gamma Nu chapter at Claflin University in Orangeburg, SC
What drew you to Kappa? Why did you want to become a member?
What drew me to Kappa was the Mission and vision I saw the fraternity had. I knew I wanted to be a teacher and programs like the Guide Right program and how active they were in the community where I was at pulled me to them. Specifically, at my school, there were great role models who exuded positive leadership and were extremely active in the community. I Knew I wanted to be a part of something that special and contribute.
What is one of the most important things you have learned from Kappa Alpha Psi?
One of the most important things I gained from Kappa is the importance of building relationships and maintaining them over time. A lot of my line brothers were strangers to me before we pledged. But after we became brothers, it’s hard to tell if they are my actual blood relatives or not. This plays right into what I do for a living in impacting others and building lasting relationships. I am still close with all my line brothers and a lot of older brothers. The amount of support and love you can get from people outside of your blood family is incredible. I was the only one from my family who left New York and came down south. I found additional family members here.
What does Achievement mean to you?
Achievement means setting a goal for yourself, whether its long term or short term and accomplishing small wins along the way to completing that goal. That goal can be something simple, but if you are passionate about it and see the vision you have set for yourself, then that is the achievement.
Why did you decide to go into teaching?
I decided to go into teaching because of the positive impact I can impose on others both children and adults. When I was a freshman in college, I did an internship at Clemson and was a small class. At the end of that internship, one of my boy’s moms approached me and said: “My son told me Mr. White is my hero, and I want to be like him when I grow up.” This was a powerful moment for me especially as a freshman in college still trying to find his way. I knew I was destined for this job.
You run a step team for some of your elementary school students. Why do you think teaching stepping is important?
I think stepping is important because it allows scholars to form a bond with others, we promote unity and team building, as well as push collegiate interest. One of the goals myself and two other Greek members made was to push scholars to want to further their education. Since we wear our letters and get asked about it all the time, this is one of the ways to spark the conversation of college and the importance of going to college with students at a young age.
What is one piece of advice you would give to the other teachers out there?
Never undervalue or overlook the importance of building relationships. Before a child can invest in the content you are teaching, they have to invest in you the teacher yourself.