There are no desks in Richard Whitmore’s Spanish classroom at York Comprehensive High School. That’s because he knows learning a second language means fluid conversation.
“The idea is communication,” Whitmore said. “Studies show that students don’t learn a language by textbooks and worksheets.”
Whitmore was named the York school district’s 2019 teacher of the year.
“I had no idea I was going to be teacher of the year of this school let alone the district,” he said. “It’s an honor. I’m very humbled by it because I work with such great educators at this school.”
Whitmore said the language department at York Comprehensive High School is unique.
“We teach in a different way,” he said. “Our idea is our students have to acquire a language more than learn a language. When you’re a child you acquire a language before you even go to school.”
Whitmore said he enjoys hearing from students who chose to study Spanish in college and teach or use the language in their career.
“The relationships I have with my students, that’s the best part,” Whitmore said. “Making a difference in somebody’s life, and Spanish is a part of that.”
York senior Keirsten McFadden, 17, said she enjoys Whitmore’s enthusiasm.
“I love that he challenges us,” McFadden said. “He’s not one to just give us an award for participating; he wants us to learn. That really pushes us.”
McFadden is in Whitmore’s AP (Advanced Placement) Spanish class on his suggestion. She said Whitmore’s district teacher of the year honor is “well deserved.”
Whitmore has taught for 16 years and is in his sixth year at York Comprehensive High School. He taught in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte before joining York in 2014, according to the district.
Whitmore said he came to York for the experience of teaching in a smaller school system.
“I wanted to actually focus in on my craft, on teaching and kids learning instead of a lot of the bureaucracy with the big school system in Charlotte,” he said.
Whitmore said the York school district helps prepare students for both college and careers through amenities such as the Floyd D Johnson Technology Center.
“We are an amazing resource for this small community in York,” he said. “We do so much for this community.”
Whitmore holds a bachelor’s in international studies from Ohio State University and a master’s in Spanish from the UNC-Charlotte, according to the school district.
Whitmore is a National Board Certified teacher.
“Mr. Whitmore creates lessons and activities that arouse feelings of pride and enthusiasm in his students as they develop the capacity to interact in Spanish,” reads a statement from the district. “His goal is for students to feel comfortable, safe, and loved in his classroom so that second language acquisition can take place.”