When fifth grade teacher Barry White began doing a handshake each morning with a student who wasn’t even in his class, more and more students began asking to create a personalized handshake with the 26-year-old, Charlotte, North Carolina-based teacher, so that’s exactly what he did.
“I saw they became more invested in me because I took time to do a five-second handshake with them,” White said an interview with PEOPLE. “They could see that I care about them.”
Each morning before White’s Ashley Park Elementary School fifth graders sit down at their desks, they line up outside the classroom and do their customized greeting with White. Who knows how he can remember every individual handshake, but it is adorable to see the kids patiently wait their turn.
“They’re geared towards who they are,” he said. “The students come up with part of it and then I fine-tune it.”
So where exactly did White get the idea to start his handshake line every morning? From a sports icon, of course! “I saw LeBron James and the Cavaliers and how tight the team is and they all do special handshakes. I wanted to bring that concept and that feeling into my classroom,” he said. It seems to be working.
“I like that if I’m not having a good day, I can come to his class and I know I’ll have the opportunity to turn my day around,” 10-year-old Zhyir Williams said. “He can make you feel better with a handshake.”
The special moments White has with his students each day also align with his philosophy of education, which simply states that in order for him to be effective at his job, he has to “act as a guide, role model, and be a flexible educator” in his students’ lives. We need more Mr. Whites in schools!
Watch the video of White and some of his students below. Surprisingly, it only takes about one minute to get through 17 kids’ handshakes!