‘Teacher of the Week’ shares her love of math with middle schoolers

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LELAND, NC (WWAY) — Few things in life are more satisfying than discovering one’s true purpose. Sometimes, life takes us down one path until we realize its time to head another direction.

Daja White says her career began in the private sector until she reassessed her personal values and decided that teaching students at her former school aligned more with her passion.

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White teaches seventh-grade students at Leland Middle School in Leland. When the school day ends, you’ll often find her tutoring students Tuesday and Thursday afternoons as well as Saturday mornings.

All those after school hours are not a requirement of White’s job, but rather something she felt she had to do to help her students stay on track with their lessons during the pandemic.

“I love the students, I love giving back to the community,” she said.

Recently, we stopped by the Brunswick County school to recognize her as WWAY’s ‘Teacher of the Week’ and our timing for this surprise was just right.

“When you walked in, I was surprised,” White said. “Hearing something like this made me — I don’t want to cry — it made me feel good because I know my content, I’m dedicated [and] I’m here for these children.”

A graduate of Saint Augustine’s University in Raleigh, White later earned her Master’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. For a short time, she was employed with a CPA firm and then had an ‘aha’ moment.

“I woke up and I was like – you know what, I know the leader, I know the potential that I have, I know the talent that I have, why not give that to somebody else,” she said. “Then, I was like, you know what, maybe teaching is for me.”

When one math teacher suddenly left in the middle of the school year, Dr. Kimberly McDuffie, who serves as the school’s principal, says White took over tutoring more students at the school.

“She’s done over and beyond what she is required to do or what I expected her to do this school year under the circumstances,” McDuffie said. “Volunteering on a Saturday morning, it speaks volumes.”

If a student starts falling behind, White springs into action.

“When she sees a student struggling, she steps in and tries to work with them at the beginning rather than waiting until they’re failing,” McDuffie said.

While the pandemic has caused low academic performance for some students, McDuffie says teachers still need to set the bar high.

“At some point, we’re going to come out of it [the pandemic] and I feel like it’s our responsibility as educators to prepare students for the future–whatever it might hold,” McDuffie said.

With a little more than two weeks before the final school bell rings, White says its nice knowing her hard work is making an impact.

“‘Teacher of the Week’ just makes me feel wonderful and I want to keep doing what I’m doing and being that light to these students,” White said.

She’s not only being a light for students at her school, but also a reminder that if one’s career path isn’t fulfilling, keep searching until you find one that does bring you joy.

Click here to nominate an exceptional teacher you know for ‘Teacher of the Week.’ Each week’s winner receives a $100 gift card thanks to our sponsoring partner, Down East Heating and Air Conditioning.