This tugs on the heartstrings!
An Oakland teacher is using his own life experiences as inspiration to become a modern-day Mister Rogers, Today.com reports.
Donovan Taylor Hall is a middle school teacher at Impact Academy, a charter school in Oakland. While most teachers are focused on the rigors of academics, Hall is taking a more inside-out approach, teaching a class focused on 21st-century skills, like coping with stress and anxiety and the importance of gratitude and self-love. Hall takes the lessons he shares with his 7th graders and uploads them to TikTok, going viral with some videos garnering more than one million views. The teacher is known as “Mister Donovan,” a modern-day spin on Mister Rogers.
“I am trying to help kids feel and do better than they’ve done in the past. I’m trying to help kids build positive relationships with themselves, and trying to stop this, this cycle of disconnect that happens at this age,” Hall said.
A cycle of disconnect Hall knows all too well, struggling as a Black gay child, eventually grappling with suicidal thoughts.
“I remember just being so unsure of myself and being so sad, and my dad passed away when I was a kid. And my mom worked so hard, and she was a teacher on her own. And so I hid it from her because I didn’t know how to ask for help. By the time I got to college, I was suicidal. I didn’t want to be alive because I thought if I did the right things eventually, I would feel better, and it felt like it just wasn’t working. And wishing that an adult would come out ...to me and say, like, ‘I see you, and I’m here for you.’ And so for me to be able to do that for kids, just hearing them share these things that people I think kind of undervalue,” Hall told reporter Hoda Kotb.
He focuses on teaching children to maintain an empowering context about themselves and life. Many of his students speak highly of how “Mister Donovan has already changed their lives.
“I’ve been keeping a lot inside, and in Mr. Donovan’s class, I get to like express myself and not have a fear of being judged,” one student named Jada said.
“He makes me feel like I can do it, that I can accomplish this, my goal of getting good grades,” 12-year-old Osmer added.
Hall wants to expand his platform to a larger audience, setting up a home studio to make inspirational videos aimed at children, just like a modern-day Mister Rogers.
“Helping kids build a positive self-image leads directly into how they show up in the classroom. When they feel confident in who they are, and they love who they are, they’re not gonna be afraid to make mistakes...I wouldn’t be here without kids. And I feel like I wanna do this work on a bigger scale,” Hall said.
TODAY reporters surprised Hall with a new HP laptop, fully loaded with Adobe editing software to support his mission.
“I feel weirdly safe that you’re on the planet now. I feel like one of those kids in your class is going to change the world just like you are, and I’m so glad you didn’t do it that day. And we just wanted to say thank you too for all the amazing things that you’re doing with kids,” Kotb told Hall.
Thank you for the work you’re doing, Mister Donovan! Because of you, they can!
If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide please call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text TALK to 741741 or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.
Photo Courtesy of Today.com