Soul of 78- Kelly Whitaker

“This is my 27th year of teaching, but I’ve loved teaching my whole life. My brother had a hard time learning how to read, so I would get out our set of Golden Books and work with him. When I was a cheerleader in high school our coach would ask me to teach the new girls dances because she knew I had the patience for it. So, I guess I just always had a knack for it.

I went to Bevill State for two years, and then attended UNA for my undergraduate in Spanish and History. Then I obtained my master’s degree in Guidance Counseling at UAB. I’ve been teaching at Walker, now Jasper High School, my entire teaching career.

I just love my students. I can have problems at home, problems in life, and teaching is my escape because I love it so much. I like to be creative with my students, I like to work on homecoming floats, I like to be involved in their fun activities like prom. I like to see them making memories.

We make learning fun – not just pen to paper all the time. We do arts and crafts, fun projects, we sing, we even dance! We play Kahoot! on the computer as a way to incorporate technology. Learning a foreign language exercises your brain and makes it stronger. It helps students achieve higher test scores, improves brain function overall, and can prevent diseases like Dementia and Alzheimer’s later in life.

When I first came to Jasper, I didn’t have a single Spanish speaking student in my class. Now, almost half my classes speak Spanish – some as their first language. Back then, very few people in our community spoke Spanish, and now, I think everyone comes into contact with someone who speaks Spanish probably on a daily basis.

Learning Spanish is going to impact these kids’ lives in some way down the road. You never know what life is going to hand to you. They may need it for it their job. They may fall in love with someone who speaks Spanish, or whose family speaks Spanish. They may decide they want to go into mission work. Even if they don’t encounter any of these situations, they have a unique tool to carry with them throughout the rest of their lives.”

-Kelly Whitaker, Spanish Teacher at Jasper High School

Photo + Interview by Blakeney Cox

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