As he begins his eighth year of teaching, Tyler Whaley has always had a passion to educate young students since he received his bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Emporia State University in 2014. Immediately upon graduation, he earned an opportunity to teach first graders within the Piper school district. He then transitioned to teaching kindergarteners for the next five years before moving into his current role as a special education teacher for three and four-year-old’s at Piper Early Childhood Center.
“As a special education teacher, I create a lot of accommodations and modifications to help my students learn,” said Whaley. “This means that I am adapting our lessons or even the environment to meet the individual needs of my students. I use a lot of visual and audio cues, special seating and unique tools to help my students be successful in the classroom environment. Their success in the classroom translates to greater independence outside of a classroom setting.”
In order to teach in his current role, Whaley needed to further his education, and he did so by obtaining his master’s degree in Early Childhood Unified from Emporia State University in 2021. By earning that degree, he’s been able to slide into his most recent position and has flourished within the Kansas City, Kansas community.
“My proudest accomplishment was finishing my graduate degree,” said Whaley. “It was a very difficult program and I completed it while working full time in the classroom. I was so proud of myself for graduating and getting the position I am currently teaching in.”
Whaley’s favorite part about teaching at Piper Early Childhood Center is the school’s ability to use developmentally appropriate practices to help students learn new concepts and develop independent skills. They continually put the students first in each and every situation. All students feel welcome as soon as they step through the door, and everything the school does has the student’s best interests in mind.
“I always tell my students and their parents that my goal is for them to be independent learners, thinkers and problem solvers,” said Whaley. “I want them to know they can do anything they put their mind to. The children I am teaching today are the future of our world, and it’s time we let them know that. I want them to feel empowered to do hard things, take risks, not be afraid to make mistakes and use those opportunities to learn something new.”
Whaley believes that instilling standards within his classroom helps his students to develop empathy, respect and personal responsibility. It also allows them to connect with others throughout the year, build lasting relationships and have autonomy over themselves. While challenges may present themselves, Whaley knows the importance of battling through and believing in your instincts.
“An obstacle I overcame in my personal life is coming out as gay,” said Whaley. “It was very difficult to be honest about this to everyone because I was afraid of how people would react and how my life would be affected. I have been shown so much love and compassion and it has made me a better person because I am able to put myself in other’s shoes and feel how it feels to be on the outside. Coming out (as gay) has guided me in creating the inclusive classroom I strive for and helps me fight for those who are not yet ready to be champions for themselves.”
The best advice someone once shared with Whaley is to always remember that kids are kids first. No matter their disability, delay or diagnosis, children are more like their same-aged peers than they are different.
“Many of the students Tyler educates have seen adults lose their patience and give up on them,” said Whaley’s nominator, Christopher Soelle. “Not Mr. Whaley. He believes in inclusive learning and meets students where they are to help them succeed, not only in the classroom but at home as well. He is an advocate for children with special needs and always reminds us that kids are people first and should not be defined by their disabilities or delays. He is a Samaritan not only for his students and the Piper School District, but for the entire community as a whole.”
“Tyler’s ability, willingness and passion to educate these young students is extraordinary and certainly deserving of recognition and praise,” said Christina Lively, Blue KC Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer. “The devotion he shows to those in his classroom is evident from his nominator, and his desire to improve the lives of students with special needs is honorable and a highlight for the Kansas City community. We’re proud to spotlight Tyler and all that he’s accomplished throughout his young teaching career.”
“It is important to me that all children have the same opportunities as their peers, and they are able to learn and grow in an environment that is inclusive to all learners,” said Whaley. “In my classroom, all means ALL.”
Blue KC Sporting Samaritans will continue to be recognized monthly at Children’s Mercy Park during Sporting home games. Fans are encouraged to nominate teachers and students who are making a positive impact on their schools and communities by using the form online at https://www.sportingkc.com/BlueKC.