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California's 'rappin' mathematician' is finalist for National Teacher of the Year

January 14, 2009 |  1:28 pm

Alex Kajitani, known as the "rappin' mathematician," is one of four finalists for the prestigious National Teacher of the Year award.

Kajitani, who teaches math at Mission Middle School in Escondido, is known for using rap music to connect with his students.

"But his real talent lies in his ability to reach those students who have all but given up on school," said state Supt. of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell, who nominated him for the award. "Mr. Kajitani employs this cultural medium because of his deep concern about the achievement gap and what it is doing to his students and to all students who are struggling in school."

Kajitani was named one of five California Teachers of the Year in 2009.

In his application for the state award, he wrote, "As a society, we cannot afford to produce 18-year-olds who have only a sixth-grade education. We cannot allow an achievement gap that preys upon our ethnic minorities, especially our Latino and African American students, to persist."

Teachers from Colorado, Connecticut and North Carolina were also named finalists for the national award. The winner will be announced in April.

-- Seema Mehta