For Teachers

Dynamo in the Classroom

This teacher recognizes that every ADHD student is different – and builds relationships to help them learn, grow, and thrive.

Rubic's Cube helps Peggy White build a bond with her students
Rubic's Cube helps Peggy White build a bond with her students

Some people teach for a living, and other people are born to teach. Peggy White is the latter, touching the lives of her young students in meaningful ways. For more than 30 years, with 18 of those spent at Verde Valley Christian School, in Cottonwood, Arizona, Peggy has taught elementary-school-aged children. She doesn’t show signs of slowing down.

“Every ADD student is different,” says White. “What works with one doesn’t work with another, which is why building a relationship is crucial to success.” Therein lies the heart of White’s classroom philosophy: to love, to respect, to connect. She works to meet each student on his own level.

Build a Bond

How does a teacher build a bond with a classroom full of busy young learners, some with ADHD? White has a bag of tricks that has worked through the years. “I have something at my ‘busy’ kids’ desks for them to manipulate—a Rubik’s Cube, a squishy ball, or a handful of LEGOs. One boy loved to ‘dismantle’ a pencil every day—he turned it to sawdust. It helped him, so I gave him a new pencil every morning.”

“The most important thing,” says White, “is to develop a relationship of trust.” She sits with students at lunch, and finds time to spend with them when they’re not in trouble. “By fourth grade, students with ADHD know they are different. They need to know that you love them the way they are.”

White has noticed that families face more challenges these days, which inevitably affects their kids in the classroom. Parents work hard, and families are busy, so “attention is hard to come by in these days of 3D and HD.” White says that, given our technology-driven world, the gift of attention is tough even for students without diagnosis.

“At times, I sing and dance to keep kids’ attention,” says White. “We play lots of learning games. I’ll put a struggling reader in a group with some better readers to help with comprehension. Working in groups can focus ADHD students. When a student with ADD gets to be a leader or a helper, or to explain something he ‘gets’ to a group, it sharpens attention.”

Giving students ample time to work with buddies on the floor and allowing students to “sit in their chair any way they feel safe“—White is tireless in building a learning environment that meets each student where they live. That is the best scenario any parent could hope for.