Whit Perry’s path to teaching was quite unconventional. He dropped out of high school and joined the Army at age 17. Then, when his father died and he was forced to either take over the struggling family farm or commit to another career path, Perry chose the latter and enrolled in Northwest Mississippi Community College to study heating and air. After several years working in the HVAC field and even owning his own business, Perry returned to NWCC, but this time as an instructor. He’s been there 10 years, six of which he has served as lead instructor.
Even as an instructor, Perry’s constant focus is to continue his own education. He attends two to three training workshops each year and has acquired over 75 certifications to date – most are in the heating, ventilation and air conditioning fields, but he also has studied sales and real estate. Perry considers learning imperative to stay abreast of technological advances and to stay current in his field.
Perry’s dedication to his own lifelong learning is not enough; he wants to impart the same desire to his students. He assigns required reading outside of textbooks, conducts special lectures on the importance of attitude in the work world and shares success stories of HVAC professionals in conjunction with teaching his students about the technical side of the profession. A recent graduate said to Perry, “I want to be just like you.” Perry’s selfless response: “No, you can be so much better than I ever have been.” If he can use his dropout story to help his students -- many of whom might also have dropped out of high school -- see that they can still make something of themselves, Perry feels like he has done his job. Whether he is helping them to secure jobs, teaching them about HVAC or using his own life story to motivate them to never give up, Perry is committed to his students’ success.
Although he is reaching typical retirement age, this teacher has no desire to stop just yet. He plans to continue teaching and to continue his education. He has even considered pursuing a doctorate or other advanced degree. He isn’t certain of specific plans, but he knows one thing: he will never stop learning.