From sitting in a classroom to standing in front of one, Connor Whitham has allowed for his passion in education to guide his career path. Graduating in the spring of 2013 with his bachelors in Secondary Social Studies Education, Whitham used his time at Oklahoma Wesleyan University as a platform to becoming a teacher himself.
Whitham states his spark for history was ignited during a summer trip to Boston, Massachusetts between his 6th and 7th grade year. This school trip started him on a path that would ultimately shape his life: “Seeing all that history led me to want to study it more in depth.” Fast forward 12 years and Whitham is now the head of the History department at East Central High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma. This honor was granted him only two years after his graduation from OKWU, an incredible privilege for someone so young. He teaches two courses along with acting as department head: U.S. History 1877-Present and AP U.S. History, teaching only juniors, ironically, the very same year he knew he’d be teaching himself someday.
Although history is a passion of Whitham’s, the purpose behind his teaching is not merely a love of the past, he says: “No matter the stress or the work load, or the frustrations that can take over at times, I always have a smile on my face going to work and it is a joy every day because of the students.” Whitham has found the classroom to be an excellent space to act his faith in a very practical way. He notes that the majority of his students are from the inner-city and have yet to be exposed to the love of the Father. Almost daily, students come to him seeking advice and inquiring about his faith. “I have found that teaching is my ministry” he says, and because of the open environment created in his classroom, Whitham has had opportunities to speak for kids who may not have heard the power in the name of Jesus.
Whitham credits much of his success to his time as being a student at Oklahoma Wesleyan University. The relationships formed with his students are largely due to the example set for him by his professors at OKWU. “They don’t all know it, but they helped me be the teacher I am today because I learned from them and to apply those things to my job.” Attending a university where there is a resounding agreement on — and implementation of — the truth that Jesus is Lord has changed Whitham’s view on education and has become part of his own classroom.
In reflecting on advice to arriving and current students, Whitham says to find great value in the education received at OKWU. The university’s programs and faculty offer a unique, God-honoring opportunity for all students. “The best advice I can give,” says Whitham, “is to find an adult on your campus who you can talk to and ask questions to that will help you be prepared for whatever life has for you once you get out of OKWU.” He has seen firsthand the impact OKWU’s faculty can have on a student’s life, and has been able to implement lessons and leadership learned from those people who poured into his time at Oklahoma Wesleyan University.