Barrow names teacher of the year

WINDER - Christopher Whitworth, an instructor at Barrow County's Alternative School, was named the district's 2008-09 Teacher of the Year.

Whitworth, 27, teaches sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade science, language arts and applications and enrichment at the alternative school, as well as coaching ninth-grade baseball at Winder-Barrow High School.

He credits a former math teacher as the inspiration behind his decision to become an educator.

"When I was in (Franklin County) high school, I had a teacher who reached out to me," he said. "I didn't really understand math, but I felt like I was her purpose for being there and I said 'I want to be just like Mrs. (Denise) White.'"

Whitworth is living up to the standards set by his mentor.

"He enters the classroom every day with the desire to make a difference," said Molly Stiltner, alternative school principal. "He thinks outside the box, is creative, energetic, enthusiastic and will do whatever it takes to help those kids achieve. Being in alternative ed, the issues are different. There are challenges we face that you don't see in the traditional classroom and he looks at the whole child in educating that child."

Whitworth sees himself as both a teacher and a mentor.

"Teaching is important, but so is mentoring and providing them with skills they don't learn at home," Whitworth said. "Like how to treat one another, how to respect authority, how to treat women and respect them. I try to help them one day at a time to better themselves."

Whitworth sincerely loves his students, Stiltner said.

"That is a gift from God," she said. "It's so wonderful to see that. His calling is to be in education. Whatever role he takes in his career, he will do well along the way."

Whitworth earned a bachelor's degree in middle grades education from Emmanuel College and a master's degree from the University of Georgia. He will compete to be the 2010 Georgia Teacher of the Year.