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Trikia White Named Leon County Schools' 2019-20 Teacher Of The Year

Ryan Dailey

Leon County Schools has named its 2019-20 teacher of the year. Raa Middle School eighth grade language arts teacher Trikia White was rendered speechless by the announcement.

When Raa principal Christopher Small, Leon Superintendent Rocky Hanna and White’s father, Charles, walked into her classroom Thursday morning – she couldn’t hold back the tears, and at first, it was even hard to find words.

“I am just happy that – I’m just so overwhelmed,” White said, following a round of applause from her students and those who came to congratulate her.

White has been a teacher for 11 years, six of those at Raa. She says the award is a recognition of the behind-the-scenes work teachers do – and she’s been putting in plenty of long hours.

After the surprise sunk in, White reflected on the culmination of all that hard work.

Credit Ryan Dailey / WFSU-FM
Raa Middle School teacher Trikia White, left, is the 2019-20 Leon County Schools teacher of the year. She's pictured here with Raa Principal Chris Smallwood, middle, and Leon Superintendent Rocky Hanna.

“It makes everything worth it — every day, the weekends working, the long nights here. It's worth it for me, it's my hobby, it's what I enjoy doing, and this is where I thrive,” White said. “It helps others, so that's where I do my best.”

White was selected for the award out of more than 2,000 teachers in the Leon County school system. Her formula for success? It starts with making use of every minute she has with her students.

“I use up every 50 minutes. And I have middle schoolers, so they depend on their parents – they’re not like high schoolers who can have cars and come and go – so within that 50 minutes, I literally have to do everything they need within that time frame,” White told WFSU. “The only way I can actually do that is the relationship that I build with them, and knowing what they are capable of doing. And so, using all of that and providing the feedback, just working with them, they know that these 50 minutes matter a great deal.”

Raa’s principal Christopher Small touts White's ability to take on multiple roles - reading coach, language arts teacher and eighth grade team leader.

“Ms. White is a jack of all trades. And since I’ve been here, no matter what I’ve asked of Ms. White, or asked of our staff, she’s been a team player and has been willing to not only take care of business but also make sure that her teammates and peers are taken care of as well,” Small said. “So if there’s a need for support – whether it’s in her content area or something else, she’s willing to go that extra mile to make sure our school exceeds expectations.”

Charles White, Trikia’s father, has watched the progression of his daughter’s career. He was beaming as she accepted the award Thursday.

Credit Ryan Dailey / WFSU-FM
Trikia White (left), Raa Middle School teacher and the Leon County Schools 2019-20 teacher of the year, poses for a photo with her father, Charles White, on Thursday, Dec. 12, 2019.

“She's always been the type of person that tries. She never gives up. When she wants to do something - she'll do it, I don't care how long it takes,” White said while standing in his daughter’s classroom, looking on as other congratulated her. “And seeing this today, after 11 years, she worked her way up. I'm proud of her.”

The award was kept a secret until Thursday, and her dad says it was difficult to not let the cat out of the bag, he was so excited.

“Last night I couldn't hardly sleep, I had to go in my room and turn the TV on - I couldn't talk to her. Because if I'd talked to her, it would've came out,” Charles White said.

Trikia White will now go on to compete for the Florida Department of Education’s statewide teacher of the year award.

Ryan Dailey is a reporter/producer for WFSU/Florida Public Radio. After graduating from Florida State University, Ryan went into print journalism working for the Tallahassee Democrat for five years. At the Democrat, he worked as a copy editor, general assignment and K-12 education reporter.