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Suffolk teacher celebrates Black History Month by bringing history to life

Latoya McGriff is a first-grade teacher at Creekside Elementary School. Each day in February, she dressed up as a prominent African-American figure.

SUFFOLK, Va. — Latoya McGriff has worked as an educator for 12 years now, but this is the first time she’s receiving recognition on a national level.

She did a live interview on Good Morning America dressed as Barack Obama and her students were her secret service agents. 

However, the interview was tied to something bigger. For the entirety of Black History Month, McGriff has dressed as various African-American figures from Misty Copeland to Katherine Johnson and Thurgood Marshall. 

She tried to highlight prominent African-Americans who are well-known and unknown in Virginia and on a national level.

The pictures that she posted went viral. 

“It’s overwhelming because, it’s everywhere now, and I’m just doing what normal teachers do that enjoy their job. I’m just teaching,” said McGriff.

Her outfits spark conversation with students and staff, stopping her to talk.

“I came down here every day just to see who she would be, and I always took a picture of her and found out new facts myself,” said Reading Specialist Frieda Cason.

You can say she’s playing ‘dress up,’ but her reasoning goes deeper. She said it’s more than education to her. It’s representation as well.

"[The students will] remember the facts that I’m teaching if I come dressed as that person,” said McGriff. "Especially since the majority of the school's population is black."

Suffolk Public Schools Superintendent John B. Gordon III said Mcgriff embodies the district sprit.

“We have such excellent teachers here that this is just a great example of all of the hard work and how they go the extra mile to take care of our kids,” said Dr. Gordon.

McGriff said she just wants her students and community to know they can make history too, no matter who they are.

“With Barack Obama, ‘Yes, we can,’ we can do whatever we want to do in life,” said McGriff.

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