How this Haitian-American teacher used rap to keep kids in his class motivated

Ama Nunoo November 13, 2020
Sammy Rigaud is a HipHopEd whose Freestyle Friday session with his class went viral on social media. Photo:

Hip Hop education is not new and more teachers in the U.S. are embracing it as a fun way to sustain the interest of their students in learning. Sammy Rigaud is one such HipHopEd whose Freestyle Friday session went viral on social media last November because many were fascinated by his concept of motivating his students with rap sessions.

In the Atlanta teacher’s class, all that the second graders in The Kindezi School at Old Fourth Ward needed to do was to score 80% or higher on their weekly assessment. They would then be given the chance to spit bars, a tool Rigaud said motivated everyone to do better in their assignments, affecting their overall performance in his class.

The clip of their Freestyle Friday sessions now has over 3.5 million views on Twitter and to date, other teachers and schools have also adopted such techniques to motivate their students.

Initially, authorities in the school were hesitant about his techniques but they came around when they noticed how the performance of the second graders had improved and the good publicity the viral video brought to their school.

30-year-old Rigaud is a Haitian-American native of North Miami, Florida who works and lives in Atlanta. He did not set out to be a teacher, however, he found his purpose in life when a judge ordered him to do community service at the local YMCA. He babysat for 40 children while their parents were being attended to. That was the moment he knew he wanted to teach.

His goal is to make everyone excel. His Christian faith also influences his way of life. According to Rigaud, he teaches his children to develop them wholly and not in a part.

Rigaud has been teaching for seven years and has published a book to motivate children not to give up on themselves. He believes Hip Hop Education is the channel these children need especially in a diverse landscape with people from varied backgrounds. The minority should have a voice and to Rigaud, Hip Hop is that platform that can bring the much-needed change.

Freestyle Friday’s!!!

If you get 80% or higher on the weekly assessment….. you get a turn.


— Sammy Rigaud M.Ed (@sammyrigaud) November 9, 2019

He launched the activity in September last year, as a way to bring to bear the unique interests of his students. The children fell for the incentives of being participants in Freestyle Fridays because their teacher noticed how quickly their grades shot up by about 15%, hence their self-esteem also catapulted. Their teamwork skills also improved.

“It’s powerful to allow students to express themselves,” Rigaud told GMA. “We’re navigating this world together, [and] I feel it’s important for them to see that we have the same interests.”

My boys woke up at 5:30am to freestyle live!! Your fav rapper could never ??‍♂️??‍♂️

— Sammy Rigaud M.Ed (@sammyrigaud) December 4, 2019

As a youth advocate, Rigaud said his “goal is to empower” everyone he encounters.

He has made it his life’s mission to nurture children to see the best in themselves, especially the ones that society may be quick to give up on. He said he tries to “uplift and inspire them to look past their environment.”

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: November 13, 2020


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