Peggy P. Whiting

North Carolina Central University

2016 Excellence in Teaching Award Winner: Peggy P. Whiting, North Carolina Central University

Peggy P. Whiting, professor and coordinator of the Counselor Education Program within the Department of Allied Professions, joined the faculty of North Carolina Central University in 2006. Whiting states that she views teaching as a privilege, a responsibility, and a calling – an identity she lives with enormous humility. Her teaching style is based upon “the kind of storytelling that rouses the heart and engages motivation for learning.” Dr. Whiting believes that “narratives instruct and give concrete illustrations of the course material given the human story has both diverse and universal components.” Students say that her stories help them own and live the material and construct professional identity. They describe her as possessing “wisdom, grace, passion, and inspiration.”

Whiting believes that student success is linked to student engagement, higher order learning and transformational leadership. Her philosophy of teaching has “the intention of building a community of interactive learners through structure, novelty, passion, safety, and memorable information processing experiences.” She values research-based knowledge, rapport, rigor, relevant learning, and reflective thinking. For Whiting, teaching is linked to influential mentoring and the creation of “an educational holding environment balancing encouragement, support, praise, feedback, challenge, tolerance, and reliability.” She views herself as a teacher who expects for students to instruct and impact her and describes herself as “both a creator and a beneficiary when learning occurs.” Whiting welcomes technological advances as “methods for bridging knowledge into usefulness for diverse learning styles.” 

Under her leadership as coordinator of Counselor Education, NCCU received the 2015 Outstanding Master’s Counselor Education Program Award given by the Southern Association for Counselor Education and Supervision, a 14-state region. NCCU was highlighted for the program’s extensive use of technology, absolute commitment to social and cultural diversity, and development of the nation’s first online career counseling program nationally accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Programs. Whiting was the 2013 recipient of the North Carolina Outstanding Tenured Professor Award given by the North Carolina Association for Counselor Education and Supervision. A colleague said, “Dr. Whiting mentors faculty through quiet, patient actions.”

Whiting is currently serving as an elected member of the board of directors for the international Association for Death Education and Counseling and has consistently researched and published in the areas of grief, crisis, and trauma. She is assisting in the association’s draft of the scope of the body of knowledge required for certification in thanatology globally. Whiting has initiated some of the first graduate counseling courses in thanatology during her teaching career and North Carolina Central University presently has two such classes. She sees the generation of new knowledge as integral to graduate education. Whiting maintains a clinical private practice as a grief counselor and is a Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor.

Whiting earned her EdD in Human Development Counseling from Vanderbilt University. She received her ME.D. in Counseling and BA in Sociology and Philosophy from the University of West Georgia.

Q. The Teaching Awards were established in 1994 to underscore the importance of teaching and to encourage, identify, recognize, reward, and support good teaching within the University. What does this award mean to you?

A. I am humbled and honored to be identified as a good teacher.  I believe teaching has been undervalued and often misunderstood. I have always believed that teaching is one of the most noble of professions, one that requires a blend of science and art. Teaching is extremely challenging. It requires current content expertise, sound pedagogical practice, and engaging delivery methods for diverse learning styles. I view teaching as a privilege, a responsibility, and a calling. To be identified as having mastery in teaching is the highest compliment I could ever receive. It is a testimony to all the great teachers who previously instructed and mentored me.

Q. What was your path into the teaching profession?

A. It is difficult to extract what I chose, from what I was encouraged to choose, and what chose me.  This confluence led me toward counseling and education.

Education is one of the highest values expressed by family, and I was encouraged by my parents to learn all I could. My developmental journey was guided by their emphasis on lifelong learning, service to others, and formal education. One of my earliest memories is of an incident when my mother confronted me for consistently challenging my younger sister as we “played school.” By the time our mother intervened in these sessions, I had inflicted some damage on my sister’s perception of education as a desirable venture and on her subjective view of herself as capable of student success!  Fortunately for me, my parents modeled the best of education in their response to my teaching. Their example of constructive instruction formed the foundation for a more mature teaching philosophy and practice later in my life.  

I committed to being a lifelong learner when I chose to become a teacher. I entered academic life in 1986 and have watched shifts in best practice and contemporary policy in counseling as outcome research, new knowledge, mental health policy, educational reform, and politics converged.  I feel an ethical responsibility to be informed, to stay abreast, and to participate as a teacher and as a student.  My eventual career choice of counselor education was certainly my independent decision but was invaluably molded by adults who believed in the power of learning.  

Q. Besides this award, is there one particular achievement in your career that makes you especially proud?

A. I serve as the coordinator of Counselor Education at North Carolina Central University and have witnessed the program’s expansion and excellence. NCCU received the 2015 Outstanding Master’s Counselor Education Program Award from the Southern Association for Counselor Education and Supervision, a 14-state region. NCCU was highlighted for the program’s extensive use of technology, absolute commitment to social and cultural diversity, and development of the nation’s first online career-counseling program nationally accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Programs. The collective work of my team makes me especially proud.

Additionally, I have been successful in incorporating a required graduate course in crisis, trauma, and grief counseling at all three institutions where I have served since 1986. Traditionally, this has not been a part of the typical counselor education or clinical programming. I am especially proud that I could be one of the first counselor educators to create a legitimate place for this subject. Students from multiple disciplines have gravitated toward this class. NCCU now has one required and one elective class on this topic, and I am appreciative of the administrators who allowed me to implement these courses.     

Q. What teaching methods do you use to engage students?

A. My belief is that the transmission of knowledge occurs in relationship and in the lesson’s relevance to human life.  A great amount of my teaching is through storytelling, the kind that rouses the heart and engages the student with motivation to learn. Of course, this is based upon the notion that the human story has both diverse and universal components. Narratives instruct, and I use them as concrete illustrations of the material. Particularly in the field of counseling, the ability to understand both differences and commonalities promotes empathy.

My assignments tend to be focused on helping students becoming reflective practitioners. I use case studies and expect evidence-based and theoretically grounded practice to be demonstrated by my students. I welcome the latest technological advances as methods for transforming knowledge into usefulness. Presently, I augment each class with Blackboard system tools, including discussion boards, podcasts, videos, webinars, and PowerPoint presentations.

I like to implement multiple methodologies in my classroom in order to reach visual, auditory and kinesthetic learners. Students are asked to work in small teams, to create visual presentations suitable for poster sessions at professional conferences, and to enter journal reflections about their field-based learning. I learn on a consistent basis from my students. I look for them to instruct and impact me. I adjust my classroom as I learn from their suggestions. I allow their narratives to expand mine. And, if I am lucky, learning occurs.  I am both a creator and a beneficiary when it does.  When learning seems remote and stuck, I attempt to reflect upon what went awry. Always, I am humbled by the mysterious nature of teaching and learning.

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