KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Surrounded by students sitting on bean bag chairs and bouncy balls, Christenberry Elementary School Teacher Michael Comer leads his class in a sing-a-long.
"I need everyone to sit criss-cross applesauce," Comer sings as he strums his guitar while a kindergartner uses a pair of pencils to play the drums next to him.
Comer is a singer/songwriter by night and a kindergarten teacher by day. His students know him best as the 'Dean of Fun.'
"He focused on personalizing learning in his classroom and becoming what he calls, 'the Dean of Fun'," said Christenberry's principal, Melissa Johnson. "He brings such fun and enthusiasm to his classroom, but he's also an excellent teacher. So, children love coming to school every day. They love learning every day."
With an air horn in hand and a red cape on his back, Comer marches the students into the school's auditorium for what he calls, 'The Great Cookie Challenge,' a cookie-eating competition to celebrate good behavior.
"My goal every day is to make sure I'm bringing something fresh and new. We need to have fun first, and then everything will come together naturally," Comer said.
The students hold handmade signs and cheer on their classmates as they race to move a chocolate cookie from their cheek to their mouth using only their facial muscles. It all leads up to the showdown between Comer and Principal Johnson.
"I think it's super important for the kids to see us acting goofy because it lets them know we're humans and we like to have fun too," Comer said.
Johnson added that Comer's energy and unique ideas have not only inspired the students but the teachers too.
"I think our entire kindergarten team has been energized by all the fresh ideas that he's brought," Johnson said.
This is Comer's first year as a teacher at Christenberry Elementary School. His wife is the art teacher there.