Nicki Minaj and Lil Wayne 'swagger' promoted by Florida literacy company

What does a teacher need to do in order to better reach their students? As educators across the country continue to scramble to answer this question and improve the learning experience of schoolchildren, one Florida-based literacy company has offered a suggestion: Look to Lil’ Wayne and Nicki Minaj.

In their first annual Teacher of the Year Awards, The Better Education Place honored Weezy and the self-professed female counterpart for their capacity as teachers. The source of this honor lies in their “swagger.”

Yes, swagger. That unfortunate word that just won’t seem to leave despite my constant requests to God for a synonym. On the importance of “swagger” in educating the youth, BEP’s CEO, Melvin El, explained: “Apparently students are drawn in by the ‘swagger.’ If you are a teacher today and you don’t have any swagger you are going to struggle to get your students attention. It turns out a teacher can learn a lot from Lil’ Wayne and Nicki Minaj.”

As much as I adore Nicki Minaj, I’m not sure I want 45-year-old geometry teacher Mrs. Newsome dressing up like Jem from the block a la Nicki for the sake of making polygons appear more playful.

And while she’s constantly pushing the importance of education to her Barbz and Ken Dolls (that’s what she addresses her female and male fans, outsiders), I seriously doubt Nicki Minaj would be thrilled with the idea of being fancied as anything but an entertainer at present moment.

The mission of El’s organization is to boost literacy through new types of learning experiences that can incorporate music, film, games, and theater. BEP believes that hip-hop has a unique ability to inspire children and make education fun; hence the shout out to Young Money’s finest and their own line of rap-themed educational products found on the group’s website.

According to El, who thankfully did notice the irony in bestowing two rappers awards for being teachers, there is more to Minaj and Wayne than bravado, costumes and the like.

The platinum-selling rappers were also judged on six other categories including ability to capture and maintain attention, the ability to move their audience or create interaction, the ability to inspire, effective use of language, use of memory devices, and the ability to transform behavior. El noted: ”[Kids] can sing almost every song on the radio, particularly rap. I’ve seen them repeat complex lyrics from rap songs that I couldn’t even do.”

You can find plenty of kids like that on YouTube: Less than five years out of the womb, mouth looking like a nightmare for the tooth fairy’s bank account, ready to recite any rap song on the radio verbatim upon request. Typically, many of these kids feign deafness when asked to recite their ABCs.

In all fairness The Better Education Place is not the only group to believe in the power of rap to help kids learn. I distinctly remember a Discovery Kids series called Hip Hop Harry in which a large teddy bear was doing the snake and splits for a bunch of kids in an effort to promote book reading. I never knew how much I appreciated Yogi Bear until I saw that show.

I suppose to the Better Education Place Harry was dripping “swagu.” El said on the company’s site: “We can’t throw the baby out with the bath water… especially when we are talking about our babies. With the help of hip-hop, we can make education fun again.”

Should we really be placing the burden on teachers to have charisma to push curriculum?

A few days ago, author Amy Chua returned to the Today Show to discuss the paperback release of her controversial memoir, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Though I wouldn’t follow Chau’s lead and berate my children all the way to college the way she did, I will give her one thing: Her kids didn’t seem to need “swagger” from their teachers to learn. They only needed their mother to make education a priority.

Michael Arceneaux is a Houston-bred, Howard-educated writer currently based in Los Angeles. You can read more of his work on his site, Follow him on Twitter.