CGTC Instructor and GDC’s Vocational Teacher of the Year Finalist Teaches from the Inside, Out
Monday, August 7th, 2017
Woodrow Whipple, a Design and Media Production adjunct instructor for Central Georgia Technical College has been named a finalist for the Georgia Department of Corrections Vocational Teacher of the Year, an honor he credits to his students on the inside of Pulaski State Prison.
“They say I do a lot. Personally, I feel like I don’t do a whole lot,” Whipple said. “It goes back to the success stories of my students. I feel like I open the door, and they just go through it,”
The deputy warden’s office called Whipple in for a meeting earlier in the summer where they informed him of his nomination. It surprised him, as he didn’t even know he was in the running, but Whipple admitted it may have something to do with his rapport in the prison.
For 18 years, Whipple has served as an instructor in the system. He said those on the inside of Pulaski State Prison, who work and learn with him, call him the Man in Black. He is not an agent whose everyday duties require him to oversee a secret department devoted to the capture and vanquish of alien species who threaten the Earth’s existence, but instead, his duties oblige him to be an agent of change, one who liberates and ushers incarcerated students on their path to an honest living.
“I try and give them an environment where they can learn and not feel as though they are in the system,” said Whipple, who has embraced the Man in Black moniker after decades of wearing black attire to avoid ink stains during his early career as a graphic designer. “I don’t teach them as prisoners or inmates; they are free in my classroom to learn.”
When Whipple first began teaching in the late 90s, he said the system wanted him to teach prisoners how to run a printing press, but understanding traditional print and design was on its way out with the turn of the century, he asked they consider digital.
A digital application of the curriculum would apply better to the workplace requirement for his students upon their release. Since that time, Whipple has steadily been offering students courses in graphic design leading to a 16 credit-hour certificate; a jump-start to their life outside of prison.
One of his success stories is of a woman he taught who contacted him four years ago to thank him. Since her release, she had been able to secure work in graphic design, making a beyond average income for an ex-offender.
His students come to his class after having first met certain requirements which include being 36 months from maxing out, having a clean discipline record, a GED or high school diploma, filling out an application, achieving passing test scores, and interviewing with him. Lessons include how to operate programs like Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, where they create designs like business cards.
Whipple said the courses keep students focused and prepared for their release and that no problems have occurred in his tenure because those who are there learning understand they are given a unique opportunity.
“I’m very lucky. Once they get in the class, they want to be there.” Whipple said.
Dr. Brittany Lucas, the director of Re-Entry Programs at CGTC, wants Whipple, as with all the instructors she oversees, to continue to open doors for incarcerated students to walk through.
“This is well-deserved recognition for Mr. Whipple and further solidifies the positive footprint we’re having in this community. We will continue to provide student-centered, high-quality education and training along with stellar customer service to Georgia’s incarcerated citizens.”
The GDC will announce the winner of the Vocational Teacher of the Year in a ceremony on Tuesday, August 8, 2017.