Whitney is honestly so inspiring and, from what I can tell, totally deserved to be named 2015 Texas Elementary Teach of the Year. I could have written another whole page from all the wisdom she gave over the course of our phone interview.
My mom used to be a teacher. Talking to Whitney was like talking to my mom, but it was a conversation you don't usually have with your parents.
What inspires you?
What advice would you give someone who's following in your footsteps?
How do you stay motivated?
These are all things we should be asking our parents, but typically don't. By chatting with Whitney on the phone for one afternoon, I was able to understand so much more about my own mom, because I could see a lot of her in the answers Whitney gave.
Words of Wisdom from Texas' top elementary teacher
Think about your favorite teacher of all time. You probably have fond members of when he or she taught you something in a unique way or had a profound impact on you.
Whitney Lasater Crews is one of those teachers making a difference in the lives of her students year after year. The sixth-grade science and social sturdies teacher was named the 2015 Texas Elementary Teach of the Year—and Texas is no small state, boasting around 330,000 teachers.
"There are so many amazing teachers," she said. "To stand out and be recognized for something that you're doing among all of their excellence is amazing." Whitney was surprised and overwhelmed to receive the award, but after a short conversation with her, it's easy to see why she deserves recognition.
Whitney is passionate about teaching the whole child. "Sometimes academics are last on the list of things we handle in a day," she said. "If you don't take care of those other needs, academics won't fall into place." Because of this, Whitney goes above and beyond.
"Reaching the whole child is the big picture—not just what they need for the next grade level or college, but for their whole lives," she said. In her small town of Lindale, Texas, some of her students have never eaten in a restaurant, seen a plane fly overhead or stood next to a skyscraper. "It's hard for them to imagine the future when they don't even know what's out there," Whitney explained.
That is exactly what Whitney hopes to show her students by taking them on field trips to larger cities and by genuinely investing in their development and futures. "you have to show the kids that you love them, support them and have high expectations for them," she said.
During her time as an undergraduate ZTA at Baylor University, Whitney fittingly served as Academic Achievement Chairman. Our open motto has always stuck with her. "I think 'Seek the Noblest' is a great message for teachers, because it's something we want our kids to do," she said. "It's something that is always in the back of my mind and that I represent as a Baylor graduate and a Zeta. To say 'I'm a Zeta,' I need to wear that proudly and uphold the ideas that I learned in college."
When asked for career advice, Whitney suggested staying true to yourself. "No matter what profession you choose, you have to be passionate about it and go into it with all your heart. If you're going to spend your time doing it, you need to love it,"
And she does. "For me, teaching is all-consuming. I didn't realize it would be that way at first, but because it's my passion, I don't mind," she said. "I never felt called to do anything else, ever."
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