Pamela Whitlock feels any good teacher should have an “absolute love of learning and keep learning right along with the students.” For the Chattahoochee High School educator who was recently selected as the Fulton County Schools teacher of the year, that notion is even more important in her field of specialty, which is changing every day.
“I have to be willing to jump in and learn with them and facilitate the ability for them to have that curiosity and eagerness to keep pushing themselves,” Whitlock said, adding that “knowing when to push the kids a little harder and knowing when to back off is a real challenging thing … because you have to be mindful of all the other stuff that’s going on in each of these kids’ worlds right now.”
She was in the classroom with her computer students when she recently learned she’d been selected as the districtwide teacher of the year.
“I was kind of speechless, shocked, happy and excited,” Whitlock said. “It was a whole lot of emotions rolled up into one. It was quite an honor. I still get a little speechless when I talk about it because there’s so many good, good teachers in Fulton County.”
She accepted the honor in May after winning two other teacher of the year awards – school level and Northeast District.
It’s a well-deserved accolade, according to student Ethan Haarer, a rising senior at Chattahoochee High School who has taken Whitlock’s classes for two years — including AP Computer Science Principles and AP Computer Science.
“Mrs. Whitlock is very deserving of this award because she doesn’t just teach – she empowers her students,” Haarer said. “(She) is a great teacher because she encourages us to go beyond the curriculum of the classes she teaches. She’s patient and helps students solve coding issues not just by simply stating and fixing the issue but by guiding them through (it) to understand the broader concepts.”
Fellow rising senior and student of Whitlock, Charlie Liu, said she is deserving because she “radiates passion for computer science. Not only does she ensure all her students fully understand the material, but she also passes on her love for computer science to all.”
Liu added: “On top of that, she is always there for any of her students as a mentor, providing invaluable guidance and support … that encourages her students to reach for the stars.”
Whitlock said her students are her biggest motivation.
“The students can energize me like crazy, especially when they come in at the beginning of the year and they’re brand new to computer science and sometimes a little unsure of themselves,” Whitlock said. “When I see them build that confidence and start programming, that’s an amazing moment because they get very excited, and they’re hooked and want to keep learning more.”
Whitlock, who has been teaching for four years at Chattahoochee High and eight years total, said it’s the young people who have kept her going.
“The kids get me up every morning,” she said. “And, I love teaching them and learning with them.”