Music education alumnus Dakeyan Graham (BMUSE ‘07, MM ‘09), known as Dr. Dre amongst his students and colleagues, was recently awarded Hillsborough County Teacher of the Year in Tampa, Florida, and went on to win 2020 Florida Teacher of the Year.
Not to be confused with the famous American rapper, Hillsborough County’s Dr. Dre is a musician and educator that inspires and changes young lives through his love and passion for music. His nickname originates from his middle name.
“I have a Ph.D., and my middle name is Dré,” he said. “I tell everyone I'm the real Dr. Dré because I have the degree. The other guy is the fake. He should be paying me royalties.”
Graham has worked as a high school band director at C. Leon King High School in Tampa for the past ten years. After numerous rounds of interviews, he was selected out of almost 25,000 educators to receive the title of Teacher of the Year in Hillsborough County. He then went on to win the award at the state level in July.
“It is an incredibly humbling honor and a blessing,” Graham said.
The dedication and commitment Graham has for his students was a huge reason the Hillsborough County superintendent and board found him to be the ideal person for this award.
Graham said many of his students see him as a father-figure and come to him with any problem or concern they may have.
“I would like to think that my students love me,” he said. “They view me as a mentor who can be emulated. Some also admire my musicianship, as I try and remember that I have to continue to pursue my individual musicianship in order to be the best musical example for them. Once they graduate, they are still a part of my family and we reconnect often.”
Graham is a double alumnus of the UF School of Music, receiving both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music education.
“I received one of the best music education experiences in my time at Florida,” Graham said. “I was afforded many opportunities to learn with pillars in the music education community who inspired me to love what I do not for the monetary benefits, but because it was my passion.”
Graham credited his former professors Dr. Paul Basler, Dr. Timothy Brophy, Dr. Leslie Odom and Dr. Russell Robinson with greatly impacting his music profession and launching his passion.
“Witnessing and experiencing the passion of my instructors was a major aspect of the preparation to go into the music education field,” he said. “I try to emulate that same fire when I teach every day.”
His inspiration comes from the relationship his professor created as well as their continued contribution to the profession and level of excellence, he said.
“Even still, I have an incredible relationship with them—it's like talking to family when I get the chance to reconnect,” Graham said.
One of the aspects Graham appreciates most about his job in the teaching community.
“What we have is a family that is a safe, loving place for our students to grow and learn,” he said, “to be who they were meant to be: the next generation of world changers.”
This article was updated on July 21, 2019, to include Graham's state-level award.