"I feel weirdly safe that you're on the planet now," Hoda Kotb told the teacher

By Dory Jackson
May 03, 2021 12:01 PM
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Hoda Kotb, Donovan Taylor Hall
Credit: Today (2)

A middle school teacher from Oakland, California, nearly brought Hoda Kotb to tears while sharing his journey and the ways in which he has impacted his students.

During a Today appearance on Monday, Kotb spoke with educator Donovan Taylor Hall — a.k.a Mister Donovan — about his work at the Impact Academy, where he works with underprivileged students of color. The broadcaster, 56, became emotional when Hall revealed that he previously contemplated suicide during his years as a college student.

"I feel weirdly safe that you're on the planet now. I feel like one of those kids in your class is going to change the world just like you are, and I'm so glad you didn't do it that day," Hoda said while getting choked up as Hall began rubbing tears from his eyes. "And we just wanted to say thank you too for all the amazing things that you're doing with kids."

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Through Hall's work at Impact Academy, he teaches his middle schoolers how to cope with stress, how to show gratitude for others and how to love themselves. He additionally aims to allow his students to embrace a positive viewpoint. 

"I'm trying to help kids feel and do better than they've done in the past," he explained to Kotb. "I'm trying to help kids build positive relationships with themselves and trying to stop this cycle of disconnect that happens at this age."

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Hall, who's TikTok videos featuring clips from his class went viral, noted that he "wouldn't be here without kids." He added, "I feel like I want to do this work on a bigger scale."

Now, Hall has retired from his teaching job and has set up an at-home studio where he is working on sharing his teachings globally. Hoda said that his goal is to "become a 21st century Mister Rogers," a.k.a beloved TV star, Fred Rogers

Rogers was best known for creating and hosting his namesake children's show, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. The series, which ran from 1968 to 2001, aimed to educate its young viewers on a variety of important topics from treating others with kindness to caring for our neighbors. 

Rogers died from stomach cancer in 2003 at age 74. In the years since his death, Rogers' influence has still carried on as he was the subject of the 2018 documentary, Won't You Be My Neighbor? The following year, Tom Hanks portrayed the TV icon in the biographical drama, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, for which he received an Academy Award nomination. 

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.