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South Greenville teacher uses rap in classroom, ends up on Ellen

Michael Bonner, a second-grade teacher at South Greenville Elementary School, got creative with his teaching and wound up on The Ellen Degeneres Show on January 12. 

With the struggles of poverty — 100 percent South Greenville Elementary’s student population falls below the poverty line — Bonner explained in the video he sent Ellen that his students show up with barriers to learning. 

When his class failed an assessment on “who, what, when, where, and why,” Bonner decided to incorporate music into his lesson.

“I needed to find a way to reach them,” Bonner said in the video. “Music is something that always gets them going.”

His class wrote, filmed, danced, rapped, and edited a music video as a reward for learning the material through the song. The video started racking up views on YouTube, and Bonner said a student came to him and said, “We’re famous now.”

“But for them to get that kind of attention for passing a test, and to see how people were proud of them, like their self-esteem and their face just started brightening up, and they just started to own it,” Bonner said in the video. 

Ellen noticed the video and invited Bonner on stage to his surprise during the filming of her show in Los Angeles. 

South Greenville is considered a low-performing school by the State Board of Education’s standards. According to the latest performance grades, the school scored a D and met academic growth. Ellen, in collaboration with WalMart, gave South Greenville a check for $25,000 — along with iPads, Roku TVs, and other technology for the classroom. 

She also set up a GoFundMe page, which has received $70,110 in the last 13 days.

Watch the full video of Bonner’s surprise and his story below. 

Liz Bell

Liz Bell is the early childhood reporter for EducationNC.