When she was in fifth grade, Julie Whitten realized what she wanted to do with the rest of her life since she had never really enjoyed going to school until that year. Whitten instantly clicked with her teacher and realized that she wanted to have relationships like that with her future students. Throughout her schooling years, Whitten stuck to the plan of becoming a teacher but changed what kind throughout.
“Throughout middle and high school, I wanted to be a teacher, but I had thought that maybe I would be a band teacher. I love music, and I play the drums. Back then, I was one of the only girls who played the drums, so it was kind of a big deal. I liked music and went back and forth between a fifth-grade teacher, a band teacher, and a music teacher, but fifth grade just stuck with me, so I ultimately decided to be a fifth-grade teacher,” Whitten said.
Whitten’s favorite part about teaching is making connections with her students. She treats her students as if they are her friends and teaches them the importance of friendship while also teaching them the curriculum that they need to succeed in and out of the classroom.
“My favorite part about teaching is making connections with the kids. Going into the school year, I gain 20 best friends. I really hope, and honestly think, that I have made a difference in a lot of my students' lives. I’ve had over 400 students in my time working in Portage. I get invited to open houses every year by my past students, and I had them over seven years ago. I have students that will come back to my classroom after they’ve graduated and tell me what they are going to do with their life. I have parents that I’m still in touch with after having their children seven years ago,” Whitten said.
Outside of teaching and the classroom, Whitten is very into music. Whitten enjoys not only listening to music but playing it as well.
“I listen to music every morning. It’s really a part of where my happiness comes from. It gets my day going and gets me in a good mood. It’s like when I play drums, all I feel is happiness. I’ve played drums for the community theater quite a few times. I had a woman ask me if I could play the drums for Portage’s community theater production of 'Footloose.' I’ve also played at what used to be the Radisson Hotel in Merrillville, Indiana. Music has always been a part of my life, and I passed that onto my kids, who are also into music,” Whitten said.
Along with music, Whitten also enjoys doing home improvement projects.
“I’m definitely a project girl at home. I really enjoy doing home improvement projects. I’ve put up ceiling fans, I’ve done some ceramic tiling, and I’ve done electrical like lighting mirrors. I also do a lot of landscaping,” Whitten said.
Whitten would like people to know just how grateful she is for all of the opportunities that teaching has given her. She immensely appreciates the relationships that have come with teaching.
“I would really just like people to know how thankful I am to all of the parents and kids in the Portage community. I have built so many relationships in the last 20 years working in Portage Township Schools. I work with the best staff. All of the connections that I’ve made with parents and kids are just wonderful. I know that they’ll always come back to me and tell me how they're doing, and I really love that,” Whitten said.
With her teachings both in and out of the classroom, Whitten strives to make the Portage community a better place and achieves that goal with every round of students that comes into her classroom.