HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - To keep her students engaged, Farrington High English teacher slips songs into the study of literary works.
“I use country, heavy metal pop or classical music," she said.
The artists she selects run the gamut, from Johnny Cash to Johann Strauss.
For a section on civil rights, she’s using rapper Common’s song that riffs on Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
She wants her ninth grade class to develop eclectic tastes in music ― and literature.
“The artists, we get to learn from their perspective and we get to relate to it,” student Efinia Timothy said.
Barrett wrote the curriculum because she loves music.
“She plays music that we like. We all love it,” student Taumaloto Sane said.
And her unique approach is getting noticed.
The Grammys recently notified Barrett that she is this year’s winner of the Jane Ortner Education Award, given to one teacher in America that effectively incorporates music in the classroom.
It was a big surprise.
“I never win anything,” she joked. “The last time I won something was in eighth grade at Dole School.”
Barrett is a Farrington graduate. She began blending songs with English lessons when she was on the mainland, then she brought her curriculum home.
"I try really hard to make literature relevant to their lives," she said.
She wants to inspire her students to be readers and writers.
"I never used to like literature in middle school," Sane said.
"It's never boring," Timothy said.
Barrett will be an honored guest at the Grammy Awards, where she’ll receive the red carpet treatment and entrance to the after awards party.
"It's an all-expense paid trip for me and my husband," she said.
And in the spring, Barrett and her curriculum will be inducted into the Grammy Museum.