It's down to business in Jeff Dewhirst's Asheville Middle School classroom.
The popular math teacher is known to occasionally dress in costume and have plenty of hands-on experiments.
Today, it's time to work on equations at the whiteboard.
Dewhirst's easy-to-understand explanations and communication style caught the attention of fellow teacher Mary Stewart after her students started talking.
"I kept hearing all these accolades from the kids about this teacher," says Stewart. "They love him and they speak so highly of him. So, I thought we had to do something to recognize him."
Dewhirst has been at Asheville Middle since 2002,
"I think of math as a riddle, and I just enjoy posing riddles to the students and having them work together in teams to help solve equations and riddles," says the longtime teacher.
"I feel like two brains work better than one. I like partner work," says student Harmoni. She adds Jeff Dewhirst is one of her favorite teachers. "If you don't understand anything or you're goofing off in his class, he won't get mad at you. He'll just say, 'hey,
what can I do to help make your learning successful?'
"It's not really my favorite subject," student Beck says about math. "but, it's pretty fun in his class. He does his best to make it as fun as possible."
Dewhirst has an advantage when it comes to relating to middle schoolers.
"I have a middle school daughter, currently, For me, it's fun to interact with them," he explains.
The long-time teacher also says being patient and caring, but firm at the same time helps.
Most importantly, Dewhirst says solving the small riddles of 7th-grade math is the key to the bigger riddle of how to make middle school math fun?
"Math is a building block, so if they can get through seventh grade and just have a love for learning and understand they can grow wherever they are if they can make a small gain, that small gain will help them be more successful."