Ron Clark: The Ron Clark Academy | American Graduate Champions | PBA30

Ron Clark Uses Song, Dance To Make Serious Subjects Fun Learning For Students

By Shelby Lin Erdman • OCT 20, 2015

Video produced by Gordon Ray

Ron Clark stood before a class of rapt students, pointing to numbers on a chalkboard. Then, in a surprising twist to any unsuspecting onlooker, he said “That is just so..,” the signal for students to join him in a math song. Suddenly the class erupted and replied by singing and snapping their fingers, “Easy, so easy,” the students sang out.

Clark is the founder of the acclaimed Ron Clark Academy in south Atlanta, a non-profit, private middle school that opened in 2007 for students in fifth through eighth grades.

We’re trying to lift the spirits of our students so they’ll be excited and they’ll be eager to learn.

In addition to the school administration, he actually teaches, too. And he seems to be a combination performer and teacher as he leads his class in a lesson that is part song, part math problem, and part just plain old fun.

“Students tend to follow the lead of the teacher. So if the teacher has passion, if he or she is excited and they really want to be there, kids will tend to be excited as well,” Clark explained.

Champion-1.png And his class was very excited in what seemed like a very basic math lesson, as they yelled and sang out the answers while Clark danced across the front of the room leading them on and asking them questions about the equation at hand.

“So I try to be in a good mood. I try to be happy. I try to use passion. I’m using songs, dance, energy because I want my classroom to be a place where kids want to be,” the American Graduate Champion said.

The students in his classroom really seemed to want to be there, too, if their reaction to the math lesson was any indication. They were all very engaged in the subject and seemed to be having a lot of fun as they learned.

Clark’s approach may seem unusual, even a little odd, but the former national Teacher of the Year at his previous school in Harlem, New York takes his method of teaching very seriously.

amgrad_logo.jpg “If students want to be in your class or in your school, they’re going to probably want to learn as well and they’re going to be excited about learning.

Clark said his approach to the lesson and his teaching strategy are pretty simple.

“I tell my teachers, ‘Dust is falling on the students. You have to come to this side of the room to stir it up. Come over here and stir up this side of the room.’”

He jumped up on a desk and the students followed his lead. He tried to make sure every student was engaged in the math lesson and participating in the high-energy lesson as the class chanted to a drum beat and yelled out math answers in unison

“When a teacher has passion and he’s really excited about what he’s teaching, then that is going to be seen by every child in the classroom.”

But the academy also balances out the energetic teaching method with a strict code of discipline. Its mission is clearly stated: “To deliver the highest quality educational experience where global citizens are born through advanced rigor, engaging teaching methods, and a passionate climate and culture.”

The school believes song and dance has a positive effect on students and it is part of many lessons at the academy.

“The drums, the music, the energy, people are attracted to it. They’re drawn to it. It makes us all smile,” Clark added.

“When you walk into a classroom and music is playing, it just lifts your spirit. And we’re trying to lift the spirits of our students so they’ll be excited and they’ll be eager to learn.

PBA's Atlanta Champions


Scott Allen

"He is such a dedicated teacher who says that he is awed by his students’ creativity and original thought."


Mouhammed Bah

"I think education brings more wealth to being successful than any other thing in life."


Travis Brown

"He just does everything he can to insure that when a student comes in his class he’s removed all barriers so that they can truly learn."


Atia Butts

"You always want to have the mindset of succeeding and if you know the people around you are not going down that path then do your best to be nice, be cordial, but distance yourself from those".

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Kim Bearden

"No child should ever be allowed to be invisible in a classroom."

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Barry Blackmon

"I use a lot of different methods and try to mix my own type of gumbo within the classroom, such as discipline and humor."


Meria Carstarphen

"We really want parents to help us get children in school, on time, every single day and that starts with getting up and making sure they can get out of the house on time, into the bus or walking to school."

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Ron Clark

"We’re trying to lift the spirits of our students so they’ll be excited and they’ll be eager to learn."


Megan Gilroy

"Health can still be fun. It doesn’t have to be this drudgery exercise in this terrible thing."


Dave Howland

"Literally every single grade a kid gets in high school has an impact on their future trajectory. So making sure that that’s a big piece, helps them stay on track to graduate."


Kesha Payne

"Every decision you make, keep students first. I say communicate clearly with parents and administrators. I say collaborate effectively with your colleagues and keep students top of mind."


Immanuel Reed

"When I was a kid, being a part of a program like this helped me tremendously, and I think that me doing the same thing for others, giving them chances, giving them the opportunity to make the best decisions, it’s full circle for me."


Dan Sims

"The hope is in the school house and we hold a primary place in inspiring kids to look beyond this time frame."


Amber Stewart

"The success of a student hinges on the teacher that’s standing in front of that classroom and hinges on the school leader that’s running that school."


Darryl Terry

"As a student in one of the most impoverished areas of Atlanta, I’ve always known that education is going to be my only way out."


Stuart Thorn

"We’ve been able to take the graduation rate for this cohort of kids up from probably what would have been in the neighborhood of five to 15 percent up to now above 85 percent."


Dennis Tolliver

"He captures his students’ attention and they hold on to every word that he says because they know what he gives will truly benefit their lives."

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Jayongela Wilder

"There is nothing more rewarding then seeing a kid that you taught graduate from college."