Chance the Rapper, a popular Chicago musician, surprised a Hallie Wells Middle School teacher with a national award, including $30,000 in prize money, during a virtual awards ceremony Friday night.
Streaming live to his 11.7 million followers on Instagram, Chance gave the final of 10 awards to Michael Doggett, an English teacher at the Clarksburg school. The awards were presented over three days during National Teacher Appreciation Week.
Doggett talked with Chance the Rapper, whose songs include “No Problem” and “Hot Shower,” for about 15 minutes via webcam as thousands watched.
Sponsored by Box Tops for Education and General Mills, the inaugural Twilight Awards were presented to educators who show dedication, originality and creativity to engage students.
After recognizing a librarian from Lincoln, Nebraska, and a physical education teacher from St. Louis, Missouri, Chance summoned a drumroll and announced the final winner.
“The fact you’re in the field of teaching is a blessing to humanity, and it’s a big deal you’re hands on in developing the next generation,” Chance said to Doggett.
Obviously emotional, Doggett said he’s been engaged in teaching since his sister was born when he was 9 years old. Teaching, he said, makes him “feel like I have a mission and like I have a purpose.”
Doggett was nominated by his colleagues at Hallie Wells for his work to engage students by incorporating youth culture and hip-hop in his lessons. Doggett, who has worked at Hallie Wells for three years, organizes an annual hip-hop showcase at the school. He helps students write, produce and perform their own music, some of which is played in the hallways between classes, Chance said.
During remote learning due to the coronavirus pandemic, Doggett has posted videos of himself rapping.
The lyrics are generally words of encouragement for his students, which has helped keep them motivated, according to a message submitted to support Doggett’s nomination.
Chance praised Doggett for his “raw as hell” and “super dope” approach to teaching.
“I’m just trying to take in everything my students are giving me emotionally and be able to connect with them in any way that I can,” Doggett said during the live stream, “and this is the best way I can do it.”
In a message to Bethesda Beat on Saturday, Doggett said he doesn’t do his work alone.
“Although so many of them are true heroes, unfortunately, only very few teachers get to feel as appreciated as I have during this Teacher Appreciation Week,” Doggett wrote. “One of those heroes is my friend, Mr. Ritchie, whose selflessness and creativity inspired me to write Hey Students 8: Teachers’ Edition. In this unprecedented time in the history of education, we are all in this together for our kids.”
Chance said he began exploring the idea of hosting an awards ceremony equivalent to “the Grammys for teachers” in 2017, after donating $1 million to Chicago Public Schools for enrichment programming. After working with teachers in the city, Chance said he realized educators are “grossly and criminally underpaid, in overcrowded classrooms.”
“I started wondering, ‘Why do I have all these awards for my silly little singing, and I’m not raising the next generation?’ ” Chance said. “… We’re living in a crazy moment in American history and world history right now, and the people who are gonna fix the world are the ones raising the next generation.”
Doggett will receive $15,000 of the prize money from the award and Hallie Wells Middle School will receive $15,000.