Ask Barry White Jr. if he has kids, and he'll tell you he has 60.
Three fifth-grade classrooms – reading, science and math – with 20 students in each.
"I call myself 'school dad,'" White told me. "I tell my kids, 'Your parents are entrusting me with the responsibility of building you not just academically, but also building your character."
White (no relation to the singer) is 26 years old. He grew up in Queens, N.Y., but he moved to the South for college and stayed there to teach.
He's just finished his second year at Ashley Park Elementary in Charlotte, N.C. His first year at Ashley Park, he started a ritual with a fourth-grade girl who sometimes needed her day brightened.
"We came up with our own little handshake that we'd do consistently every day," he said. "I saw how much it affected her and how important it was for her, and I wanted to do that for all my students."
Before long, he had created a personalized handshake with each of his 60 students. The kids line up outside his classroom and perform their handshakes on the way to their desks.
Maybe you've seen the video that went viral a few months ago. Maybe you saw him on the "Today" show personalizing handshakes for Matt Lauer, Hoda Kotb and the gang. Maybe you saw that other video, in which he surprises his students by having a Harlem Globetrotter show up to do their handshakes with them.
I saw all of them, and I wanted to track down White and ask him why he does it. Sure, it's fun. Fun is important, especially in childhood. Especially in school, where a framework is being built for learning to seem either enjoyable or joyless, a privilege or a burden.
But you watch those kids' faces, and you know more than fun is happening.
"It's a personalized moment – it's only me and you," he said. "They know, 'Mr. White respects and cares for me enough to remember this handshake.'
"Every day, they have a moment they look forward to," he said. "They know they're important, they know they matter and they're not overlooked. I show them, 'You're special. You're unique.'"
Dove Men+Care launched a "there to care" campaign for Father's Day, highlighting the importance of father figures who either supplement or stand in for dads – grandfathers, coaches, teachers. The company features White in the campaign.
"Since I started doing the handshakes, I've seen the entire atmosphere of my classroom change," White told Dove. "The kids are so supportive of one another, and they treat each other with the same respect that I show them."
I love that he views that as fatherly – the role of gently guiding kids to the best versions of themselves.
That's a tricky endeavor. It takes time, and it takes understanding, and it takes calibrating. Tossing the baseball around might get them talking for a while, and then all of a sudden it doesn't. Same with Hot Wheels. And biking to 7-Eleven.
Tastes change, personalities change, needs change. It's hard, but critical, to keep up.
Great dads know this. They know how to show up at all different times, in all different ways so their kids feel loved, celebrated, supported. And, yes, guided.
I see it all the time: When my husband, regardless of how much sleep he's gotten, trots down to the basement with my early-riser son for football or baseball or basketball or Legos – or all four.
When my son's Little League coaches show up in the rain and the wind and the heat and remember to grin when they tell my son to lift his elbow when he bats.
When the dads at my kids' school steer fundraising committees and work book fairs and hold tiny hands on field trips and give bear hugs at drop-off and throw the ball around after school with a bunch of kids – not just their own.
White sees it too. Some of his students don't have dads who are present and hands-on, he said, but a lot of them do.
"A majority of my students' parents are highly involved and very visible," he told me.
White's influence is invaluable in either scenario.
"I can't do this on my own," he said. "It's not a job for just one person."
Great dads know this too. And while they're investing their time and their patience and their focus on shaping great kids – as White does – they're showing those kids how to care.
How to care about themselves and how to care about others. I don't think you can put a price on that.
But there's a day set aside for honoring it. And I hope it's a happy one for all the fathers – and father figures – out there quietly shaping the future.
(Contact Heidi Stevens at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter: @heidistevens13.)