A first-grade teacher in Virginia is getting creative when it comes to inspiring her students during Black History Month.
LaToya McGriff spent each school day in February dressed as a different black historical figure by coming to class in elaborate costumes. “I enjoy doing this because my students are learning new facts every day and they look so forward to seeing who I am each day!” she wrote on Facebook.
She’s also dressed as mathematician and aeronautical engineer Mary Jackson, Arthur Ashe, the local school district’s first black superintendent Mack Benn Jr., Col. Fred Cherry, Ella Fitzgerald, Booker T. Washington, teacher Florence Bowser, slave-turned-Colonial-spy James Lafayette, Henrietta Lacks, Tuskegee Airman Lt. Col. Howard Baugh and Maggie Walker, the first black female bank president in the country.
McGriff has shared all of her special outfits on Facebook, taking the time to include blurbs that explain each person’s contributions to history.
She also told Good Morning America that a majority of students at Creekside Elementary School in Suffolk, Virginia, are black, and part of her mission is to make sure they know just how important representation in history is.
“It is important for the children to see that people who look like them have made contributions because it reassures them that they can, too,” she said. “It’s hard to believe in something you don’t see.”
McGriff told the outlet that she’s been using the outfits as a way to spark discussion in her classroom, as the kids often want to learn more about who she had chosen to portray each day.
During the month, McGriff also honored historically black colleges and universities, like her alma mater Hampton University, as well as Black Greek-letter organizations, like Alpha Kappa Alpha Inc., of which she is a member.
McGriff said teaching the kids about these organizations and schools gives them “something to look up to” and “get excited about” when thinking about their futures.
“I hope that [the students] learn, no matter the circumstances, they can make a difference in this world,” she told GMA. “No matter where they come from, how they look, they can make a difference.”