A Greenville elementary school teacher, known for distinctive lessons that include making educational rap videos, got a big surprise Thursday from “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”
South Greenville Elementary second-grade teacher Michael Bonner was in the audience at a taping of the episode that aired Thursday. He was called to the stage by DeGeneres, who told the audience he had no idea that he was about to be on the show.
South Greenville is a Title I elementary school based in a neighborhood with a 100 percent poverty rate, Bonner told DeGeneres. Title I schools have high rates of poverty, so they receive federal funding.
Sometimes teachers at South Greenville reach into their own pockets to provide kids with school supplies, clothing and meals, Bonner said.
“These kids come to school hungry and distraught mentally and emotionally, and they find a way to listen to me to teach them how to add or read,” he said.
During his appearance, DeGeneres showed a live video feed from Bonner’s classroom, where his students performed one of his raps live. DeGeneres also presented Bonner with a check for $25,000 from retailer WalMart, along with cameras, headphones and a television to help him produce new videos with students.
“You were inspiring those kids and giving them hope, which is the most important thing that we can possibly do,” DeGeneres said.
The show also set up a crowdfunding page for the school on the online fundraising platform GoFundMe. The campaign was launched on Thursday, and by mid-morning Friday almost 800 people had donated, raising nearly $29,000.
Bonner got national attention in October when a video of his students performing an educational rap video about reading was widely shared online, according to TV station WNCT.
The teacher came up with the idea to make the video after his class performed poorly on a reading test. He promised his class they would make a video if their scores went up, he told WNCT in October. The students met the challenge, and more than half of the class got an 80 or higher on the next test.
“Their self-esteem, their face just started brightening up, and then they started to own it, so the video was more than just dancing, it’s sort of a celebration,” he said on DeGeneres’ show.
Chris Cioffi: 919-829-4802, @ReporterCioffi