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Rhyme Time

Dr. Margaret Starkes '93

The “In My Feelings” viral video challenge has a new educational verse. Students you know we love ya, no one above ya, and we know you will achieve …

Cue “The Rapping Principal,” Dr. Margaret Starkes ’93, who channels her musical talents to connect with students at Miller African-Centered Academy in Pittsburgh’s Hill District.

Each fall a customized rap song welcomes the children to a new school year. This fall Starkes reworked the Drake tune that inspired hundreds of people nationwide to post music videos online with the hashtag #InMyFeelingsDanceChallenge.

“When there is a trending topic happening within our school, our district or our city, I find the words and put them to music. Many times, I will use a cover song and change the words to fit a relevant issue,” Starkes says.

It all began during a lunch period when she noticed students rapping and making up beats. The principal surprised them by coming up with her own rhymes.

“I rapped for the students, and their jaws dropped. I realized that rap could be a vehicle to relate to students and talk about important topics.”

Starkes, who attended Pittsburgh Public Schools, says her education has come full circle. After earning her bachelor’s degree in early childhood/elementary education from Cal U and her doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh, she was eager to go back as an educator. She has been with the district for 25 years.

“My student teaching placement returned me to Pittsburgh Public Schools. It was an honor to return to my city and my school district to serve,” she says.

“Becoming a teacher and then a principal is my way of giving back to the children, as so many of my teachers and administrators have done for me.”

Next up: A rap song she hopes will reach the ear of talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres. “I believe in the work she does for schools and urban communities,” Starkes says.

Ultimately, she would like to enhance the district’s cultural arts program.

“I would love for all students to have access to cultural arts as a means to express themselves and share their talents and gifts with the world.”


—    By Kayla Kuntz, social media manager at CalU

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