Barry White, Jr., a fifth grade English teacher at Ashley Park PreK-8 School in Charlotte, North Carolina, has an elaborate, personalized handshake with every one of his students. Every. Single. One.
“They know when they get to the front door we do our ‘good mornings,’ and then it’s time to go,” White told ABC News of his enthusiastic greetings. “I’m always pumped up and then we start doing the moves and that brings them excitement and pumps them up for a high-energy class.”
Each handshake is different, using custom moves inspired by the student’s personality.
“I started with one simple handshake last year with a 4th grader,” he explained. “She would wait for me every morning before she’d go to class. She’d get in trouble sometimes for being late because she’d wait on the handshake."
“This year I started making handshakes with the kids at recess. It was just one or two students and then it became contagious,” he added. “I saw how much it meant to them, so I said, ‘Come on. Everyone come on.’ Then it was my full class, then it was kids from other classes. Now I have 3rd graders wanting to do it too.”
White said remembering all the different moves isn’t as tricky as you’d think.
“It’s muscle memory at this point,” he said. “I do it so much with them. They love coming up to me and doing it. I just know the certain moves that go with certain kids because it’s personalized. For example, I started a step team at the school. Some of my 5th graders I teach are on that step team and you’ll notice we step a little bit in their handshakes.”
An avid Cleveland Cavalier's fan, White was inspired to do the handshakes with his students after noticing his favorite basketball player, LeBron James, doing the same thing with his teammates.
“You see that bond and how close they are,” he said of the Cavs. “I wanted to bring that feeling into the entire 5th grade.”
His administration loves the enthusiasm White brings to his students each day.
“The only way to help our scholars achieve at high levels every day is to embrace the need for a meaningful and deep relationships,” said principal Meaghan Loftus. “Barry’s handshakes represent his own authentic take on building those relationships. When I walk into my teachers’ rooms, I see the impact of those strong and trusting relationships. When kids know their teacher cares, they are attentive, engaged and driven to be successful. That’s the culture we are building at Ashley Park.”