Ashley Park teacher Barry White did not expect a video of him greeting each of his students every morning with personalized handshakes to go viral last year. But it did.
The video was shown everywhere from Good Morning America to Nightline. White was even invited to appear on The Steve Harvey Show.
White said the video has offered him, along with his students and school, many opportunities, but the greatest came this summer when White was invited to participate on comedian Kevin Hart's new show, TKO: Total Knock Out.
Producers from the show saw White's video and called to ask if he would be interested in participating in the show.
"They described it as a combination of American Ninja Warrior and Wipeout," said White. "I had no idea what I was getting myself into. But the producer said it fit my personality, athletic and competitive. So I said yes."
White immediately started training for the show.
"I was in the gym working on my legs, I was climbing step-ladders whenever I could," he said. "On the playground, my students and I were doing pull-ups on the monkey bars. They were cheering me on."
The episode featuring White was called "Unsung Heroes" and also included a nurse and a police officer. Before the show started, White had the opportunity to meet Hart.
"That man is everything you think he would be," he said. "He's a walking comedy shtick. He brought a lot of fun and positivity to the show. He was roasting us. There were some comments he made as I was running the obstacle course that I didn't even hear. And even though he was making fun of me, I laughed and laughed. I am originally from Queens, N.Y. I can take it."
Before the competition began, Hart introduced White as "the handshake teacher" and even showed a clip from the handshake video.
"Just having Kevin Hart acknowledge my students and to represent CMS and Ashley Park on a national level was amazing. I am so grateful for that."
After competing in several challenging obstacle courses, White won the competition and $50,000. There are several more episodes left of the show. If his time still qualifies, White will be invited back to compete again for more money.
White immediately sent his parents on a vacation and is already thinking of ways he will use his winnings in the classroom.
"I am going to plan a few field trips where we won't have to worry about money," he said. "We're going to do some cool new projects and update my classroom to make it more modern and comfortable."
White says more than anything, the recognition for his students has been the best part of this experience.
"To be a Title I school and get this kind of recognition, words can't even describe how grateful and overwhelmed with joy I am. "
The teacher knows that his students are watching him for much more than typical school lessons.
"When I walk into the classroom, I know my kids are watching me. Being a male educator of color in Charlotte, they are watching how I walk and talk and interact with people," he said. "It is a huge responsibility. I am a physical reminder, right in front of them, that people who look just like them can do exceptional things."
There are only a few more episodes of Total Knock Out. White said he's sitting on the edge of the couch every week.
"So far, my time is holding up," he said. "I hope I get the chance to go back!"
Watch the entire episode with White here.
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