When Charles Whittaker retired after a long career in construction, he thought about getting a part-time job, maybe something inspiring a younger generation. A friend suggested teaching.
Now 14 years later, the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning teacher at the Center for Applied Technology North is the 2022 Anne Arundel County Public Schools Teacher of the Year.
“Teaching and working with young people is a joy,” Whittaker said Thursday. “It’s an awesome place for kids to get trained for the careers that are really booming now.”
Whittaker, who was honored at a Tuesday evening ceremony, teaches at CAT North in Severn after working 30 years for Unilever Foods, according to a news release from AACPS. Whittaker has a master’s degree in business administration and is pursuing his divinity degree at Wesley Seminary, according to the release.
He teaches the trade of maintaining and installing heating and cooling equipment, as well as the metal-working necessary to make the ducts that move air through a building.
He said each year he speaks to businesses to find out what they are looking for in an employee, and he adjusts the curriculum to make sure students are learning the technical skills they will need in the field.
He also teaches them how to talk to customers, employers and managers — skills that are important for success. Customers sometimes get upset, and knowing how to diffuse the situation is valuable, Whittaker said.
He supports students by helping them with industry certifications that can lead to well-paying jobs, either right out of school or through post-secondary training, he said.
He said developing a student’s independence is part of his teaching philosophy.
“It’s all about the kids, preparing them for a limitless future,” he said. “It gives me joy to come back each day.”
He said he has navigated teaching during the pandemic by treating students with equity and love, while maintaining rigorous standards.
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Whittaker is a graduate of Glen Burnie High School, and lives in Severn. AACPS said Whittaker is the first career and technology education teacher to be named Teacher of the Year since the award’s inception in 1987.
“We all have the ability to educate, empower, encourage and embolden our kids for every challenge that comes their way with wisdom and authority. We have what it takes to move students to careers they never aspired to,” Whittaker during the 36th annual Excellence in Education Awards, held Tuesday at the event center at Maryland Live! Casino.
Whittaker was nominated by the school’s principal, Joe Rose. Whittaker is chair of the school’s Construction Department.
“Mr. Whittaker demonstrates unconditional love and relentless pursuit of perfection for all of his students, the HVAC industry, and the business community,” Rose wrote. “He not only investigates opportunities for himself, but through his selfless leadership he always looks to serve others.”
Finalists for AACPS Teacher of the Year included Lacie Harold of Arundel Middle School, Nafeesah Marcellus of Brock Bridge Elementary School, Jennifer Lowe of Crofton High School, and Molly Stavely of Glen Burnie High School.
Katie Hansen of Annapolis Area Christian School was named Independent Schools Teacher of the Year.