On the morning of March 24, 2017, our community was rocked by the sudden loss of beloved husband, father, teacher, colleague, adviser and friend, Kevin Oliver White. In 37 short years of life, Kevin made an immeasurable impact on the lives and hearts of those who were blessed to know him.
Kevin grew up in Cherokee County and graduated from Cherokee High School. His talents and love for music led him to earn his master’s degree in music and serve as choir director and music teacher at E.T. Booth Middle School. Throughout the years, Kevin invested his time and passion for music to influence and impact the lives of his students in a way few others have. He genuinely loved God, his family and his students, and it showed every day. He understood the complexities of the difficult transitional middle school years of his students and embraced, loved and mentored them through it – not just for three years of middle school, but his friendship continued long after his students graduated high school.
“Mr. White made my daughter look forward to going to school, he made her feel loved, let her know he cared, made her bad days good and her good days better. His boldness of faith and example of how to live life will serve as inspiration to all who knew him,” said a parent of one of his students.
Kevin, an active member of Canton United Methodist church, sang almost every Sunday and was a member of the praise and worship band and Cherokee Chorale.
Kevin leaves behind wife Courtney, his childhood friend who later became his wife. He and Courtney have one daughter, Piper. Courtney is an eighth-grade teacher at Dean Rusk Middle School; she, like Kevin, lives to serve our children. Courtney is now challenged to fill role of mom and dad for their daughter. Piper, Kevin’s pride and joy, was born 8 years ago with Treacher Collins Syndrome, a genetic condition that affects the development of bones and other tissues in the face. To date, Piper has endured 11 surgeries and will require more in the future. She will need extensive dental work, therapies and hearing aids every five years. The cost of one hearing aid is $5,000 and insurance covers only a small portion. Please pray for Courtney and Piper as they begin their new normal without their amazing partner and father. Pray for faith stronger than fears and for peace beyond understanding.
Since Kevin’s passing, current and former students have rallied in tribute to him through memorials, a balloon release, fundraising events and social media campaigns to help each other cope with their loss and to honor their admired teacher. “Thank you to everyone who has showered us with prayers and gifts. It has meant the world to us, especially Piper. I know more than anything that Kevin would want to know that we are being taken care of by our wonderful family, church and community,” Courtney said.
Because Kevin was never shy to share his compassionate heart with his students or parents, we share an excerpt from an email sent to parents of his students before sending them off to high school:
“In this email, which may be one of the last ones many of you get from me, let me express my heartfelt gratitude, my heartfelt admiration I have for all of you. But remember, as I sang on Tuesday, ‘There is no ‘Goodbye…’ only ‘We’ll meet again!’ From the bottom of my heart … thank you for blessing my life with the opportunity to teach your children.”
Kevin White, it is WE who are thankful! Your legacy will forever live in the hearts of our children.
“Well done, good and faithful servant.” Matthew 25:23
A Tribute to Mr. Kevin White
How do teachers communicate effectively that they care about you?
By Joseph Lemmo
On March 24, E.T. Booth Middle School experienced a great loss when Mr. White passed unexpectedly. Teachers lost an amazing colleague and friend, and students lost a remarkable teacher and mentor. I worked with Kevin for nine years and constantly felt acknowledged when I was around him. Conversations were regularly fun since we shared a similar passion for sarcasm, and we always seemed to banter like a couple of brothers. In fact, we frequently told the students we were brothers because they got us mixed up over and over again! He truly was a special person and knew how to effectively communicate that he cared very much about the people around him. On this page, you will find some thoughts about Mr. White from some students who he and I taught. If you’d like to share any stories or thoughts about Mr. White, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Dear Mr. White,
You showed so many people and students how much you cared about them. I remember my first day of school, you were so sweet, and you would always make jokes about everything. I remember I walked in the room and you said, ‘I mean you could stand there all day or you could introduce yourself to everyone.’ I knew at that moment that I was going to like you. When I was sad, you were always there for me. You always cared about everyone else’s feelings, and you would never think about yourself. You always made me laugh, even when I had a bad day; in fact, you always made sure that EVERYONE was happy.
“I rather feel bad for leaving chorus, but I never forgot about you. Every day you would always say hi to me when I was leaving to go home. I would always walk by your classroom and constantly see someone laughing. I know you are in a better place, and that we will meet again. Nevertheless, know we all love you, and we will never forget about you, the best chorus teacher we ever had.”
Love your former chorus student,
“Mr. White, where can I begin to talk about him? He was one of my favorite teachers, but he was not just a teacher, he was part of my family. I will always remember the funny things he said: anonymouse, cornfused, ‘fluffy donkey,’ and ‘It’s not rocket surgery.’ There was just something about him that always made someone smile. Anytime kids were on their phones, he would go and get a hammer from his office; of course, he never used it. There were so many memories of the times we had with him, and he always communicated that he cared.
“Mr. White was the best chorus teacher I have ever had, and probably the best I will ever have. He would pick songs that were challenging, but he knew we could do it. Chorus/school will never be the same without him. He always knew how to make someone laugh. His class was one of the classes I always looked forward to. I will always remember Mr. White as the teacher who loved his students dearly, and would want them to keep singing. Today is a Monday. On Mondays, he would wear plaid and a tie, and he would call us by our middle names. I will treasure those days that we had to spend with him, and cherish the days we sang together. He was such an inspiration to so many of his students, and I have no doubt that we will keep singing!”
“Well, from my experience, a teacher communicates effectively by making you a priority. They check on you to make sure you are having a good day and doing the right thing in class. This shows they care about your well-being and your grades. Another way they can show they care about you is by listening to you when you ask a question and answering to the best of their ability.
“Teachers being serious is a good thing most of the time when talking about a serious topic, but the occasional joke can help when a student is down. Mr. White used to joke with some of the students if they walked up to him to ask a question. Everyone in the whole classroom knew he cared about us because of the way he spoke and acted around us. During LGPE, Large Group Performance Evaluation, when the buses stopped for lunch, Mr. White made sure to thank the chaperones and tell them that, ‘These kids are yours, biologically, but they are also mine. They’re part of my family.’ I have never had such a thoughtful teacher and a fantastic mentor.”
In Loving Memory of Mr. Kevin White,
“Teachers can show they care about their students in many different ways. One way that stands out to me is when they tell you, ‘Good morning!’ and ask how you have been. Another is when they care about what you have to say and help you understand things better when everyone else already gets it. They take time to help you, which shows they want to help and want you to get better. Some teachers will respect that you do not like asking questions in front of the whole class, so after they finish talking, they will walk over and ask you if you have any questions. This shows they understand how you feel, and they care.
“Every day I went to class, Mr. White would say, ‘Good afternoon!’ and we would all get our music and sit down. Sometimes he would let us walk around and talk a little before we started to get our ‘chatters’ out. He would start calling roll call and for some people he had special names like Becca. He called her Berecka. There was another girl named Dakota who he called Dakatta. He had many more, but those are just two that stood out to me. He often told us how much each one of us meant to him and that each one of us is his own child. He would tell us how he is not just our teacher, but he is also our friend and that if we ever needed anything, he would be there for us. This showed all of us how much he cared about us. He was more than a teacher to every student, and for some he was their best friend. This is how Mr. White effectively communicated that he cared about us and loved us.”