Supporting her students


AIMEE WHITESELLWhen the work you love, loves you back, the results can be extraordinary. 

“It’s magic when I think about it,” says Aimee Whitesell, newly named Beaufort County 2021-2022 District Teacher of the Year, and Battery Creek High School’s teacher of the year.

The recognition for Whitesell has been sweet. 

“Ask any teacher and most will tell you that they’re just doing their job,” says Whitesell, who leads the science department at the high school. “I love my school and my students.”

That devotion earned Whitesell the nomination and title from a majority vote by Battery Creek’s staff and fellow educators. The humbled biology teacher smiles, remembering her schools’ drum line loudly marching through the hallways.

“They came playing into my room, with students and staff filing in behind them,” she said. “Then they presented me the (teacher of the year) award. It was great.”

Whitesell was later announced as the district winner during a breakfast celebration for the region’s teacher of the year winners. Battery Creek honored her the next school day with more percussion and myriad accolades.

Teaching is Whitesell’s passion and purpose, but it was not her first vocational choice. 

Pre-med tapped her interest and was her initial undergraduate pursuit. But chemistry was her nemesis. To pass the semester, she began tutoring sessions to help herself and fellow struggling classmates.

“I created easy tricks and watched videos on simple ways to do it (chemistry),” she recalls. “I taught everyone these techniques, and decided from that moment on, I needed to switch to education. I loved it.” 

Whitesell completed her master’s degree in educational leadership from the American College of Education, and her bachelor’s degree in natural science and biology education from Missouri Western State University. She is working toward completion of her National Board Certification within the next two years.

Whitesell said she’s honored when her students come to her for advice or a listening ear. 

“I feel proud that they trust me and come to me for help or an opinion on something,” she says. “It makes you appreciate them more. Some are dealing with so much.”

Her students inspire her, and she returns the admiration tenfold. Whitesell works to have them not only enjoy learning, but to also recognize their worth. 

“I work very hard on relationships,” she says. “I want to make sure they know I’m a person and that I care about their feelings and what they think.” 

This principle is a complement to Battery Creek’s Leader in Me program, a nationwide course-of-study where Whitesell serves as her school’s Student Lead Coordinator. She is a liaison between the administration and a student advisory team.

“Leader in Me is very individualized,” says Whitesell. “It’s cool to see how each student can learn to lead in their own way.”

The curriculum is broad and productive, with work created on per-grade fundamentals.

She helps students grasp and master leadership concepts on a variety of levels, determined by their personal strengths: from learning vocabulary words about leaders, mock interviews, completing job applications, proper handshaking, and the like. 

Teacher and student pairings remain together throughout the four-year leadership course for continuity and connection. 

“It is about making every student feel they belong to Battery Creek,” she says. “It’s the coolest thing and the biggest cultural shift I’ve seen in our school.” 

Some may argue that Whitesell herself is even cooler. 

“My students tell the story,” she says, “and they make my story spectacular.”