Crozet Elementary teacher doubles as a rapper, inspiring students and listeners

Published: Dec. 13, 2022 at 4:31 PM EST
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CROZET, Va. (WVIR) - A teacher is adding some extra entertainment to lessons in his Albemarle County classroom.

Some people know Will Donnelly as a teacher at Crozet Elementary School. On the internet and around the county, though, you may know him as Dario Cruz.

“He has a rapping YouTube channel,” 5th grader Lucas Parker said. “His name is Dario Cruz, and he’s really, really good at basketball.”

Dario Cruz is Donnelly’s birth name, but he decided to use it as his stage name to bring his roots into his career. He was adopted from Bogota, Colombia before moving to Albemarle County as a kid. He says music has always been a part of his life and it’s his passion, alongside teaching.

“I really do love incorporating music within my lessons,” the teacher said.

Donnelly’s songs are typically raps. He uses them as a form of memorization for his students, crafting catchy rhymes full of math facts. The teacher says his students know about his music on his YouTube and other social media pages. He does not use any bad words or foul language in his songs so that his students can enjoy them, too.

“They’re like, ‘Why? Why is my teacher rapping? What? He’s too old to be rapping,’” Donnelly said. “And then they get to know me, and then, you know, how much I do music, and they see my kind of passion for learning.”

Donnelly puts in the hours after class to write up songs for each unit. It’s a reflection of his care for both his students, and his careers in both music and education. The hard work seems to show its results.

“I don’t exactly love, like, the math itself,” 5th grader Adella Hernandez said. “I like how Mr. Donnelly teaches and makes it fun.”

“We kind of get, like, the visual and auditory effect,” Lucas said. “I feel like that’s really helping everybody.”

Donnelly says students are now coming up to him, showing their own original songs and seeking advice.

He coaches basketball on the side and frequents his students sporting events to show support. He puts in this sort of effort because teaching at Crozet Elementary is a bit of a full circle moment for him.

This is Donnelly’s first year at the school, as he spent the other years of his career at Brownsville Elementary. He even creates music with Brownsville’s music teacher, Trevor Bricker, and have performed together at Pro Re Nata Brewery.

Donnelly says writing songs will always be one of his hobbies and wants it to be something students remember about their time in Albemarle County schools. He’s making an impact on Crozet, just like the school did for him.

“When students listen to something that I’ve released, or listen to a song, or watch a video of mine online, they’re forever learning and growing into and seeing that inspiration,” he said.

Donnelly’s music can be found on YouTube, Spotify and you may find him performing concerts around Crozet. He says he played shows at Pro Re Nata before, and he is working on setting up more soon.

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