Inspired by Cleveland Cavaliers player LeBron James‘ handshakes, Charlotte, N.C. elementary teacher Barry White Jr. developed more than 60 different, personalized handshakes to make his students more excited about learning.
The Ashley Park PreK-8 School 5th-grade teacher entered the national spotlight after videos of him greeting his class before the school day went viral in previous weeks. The videos and his love for his students caught the attention of TV host and comedian Steve Harvey, who had White on the Tuesday, Feb. 22, broadcast of Harvey’s self-titled daytime show.
While on the show, the 26-year-old told Harvey he believes that “every person should feel as though they matter and are important to somebody.” To him, the handshakes were a great way to show his students that he cared about and valued them.
“I see the excitement and joy that is trickling into the classroom,” White says. “They are smiling, pumped up and engaging. … I’ve seen behavior change. A student last year, you could find her yelling and screaming in hallways, thrown out and suspended. She’s the first in line to do the handshake, pumped up, chest out. I think it is a result of me respecting her and showing that I care and her in return respecting me.”
White said the elaborate greetings were a collaboration between him and the students. During recess, students would get with White and work on their personalized handshake.
“Because I’m looked at as the ‘cool’ teacher, everybody jumped on it,” he says. “It almost became a second job. ‘Mr. White, have my handshake at 9 a.m. tomorrow.'”
Amazed by the young educator’s dedication, Harvey awarded White some Cavaliers memorabilia, $10,000 in cash and an all-expenses-paid trip to see the Cavs play in Cleveland.