CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — The course is titled public speaking, but with Dr. Yardan Shabazz at the helm, lectures have the feel of a live television show where every student is part of a star-studded cast.

Upon entering room H-12, a backdrop dwarfs whiteboards at the front of the camera-ready classroom.

Students are fondly greeted at the door as pockets of conversations break out around the room. When it’s time for the lecture to begin, Dr. Shabazz warms up the class with humor and a challenge.

“It’s just the energy that he brings to the classroom; he’s excited so we are excited to be here with him,” said junior Dasa Finefield.

His formula to success is simple.

WAVY photo

“You have to speak their language and there’s a trick to it. If you can get them talking more than you are lecturing, you can run a successful class,” explained Dr. Shabazz.

The debate question of the day was should final exams be eliminated?

Like a football coach in the huddle, Dr. Shabazz sets up the X’s and O’s for a spirited debate.

“Let’s go – Let’s go – Let’s go,” said Dr. Shabazz in prepping students for a drill in which a coin toss determines who presents the pro side of the debate and who presents the con side of the debate.

He works the room – Oprah Winfrey Show style -calling on students who eagerly offer their opinions. “The key is to connect with each student at least once every day. If that means you have to stand at the door, that’s another hack. As they are approaching, you to get a chance to make that connection, and throughout the class day, you have to make sure to make it consistent for every child.”

In an era where the nation’s teachers are under pressure, students at Indian River say they are proud to be one of Doc’s kids.

Here’s an eruption of overlapping thoughts from several girls in the class:

“Whatever you want to say you say it, if you feel that way you say it; there’s no judgment in this class no judgment at all; I feel so comfortable I feel like I have another family in this classroom; we are the closest people; we have a family in this class,” said MiErica Rivera, Brianna Hannigan, Angela Ward, and Vanessa Rodriguez.

In the class or on social media, Dr. Sabazz instills confidence. He is also the director of programs for the school’s social media channels.

In a nearby studio, Dr. Shabazz served as floor director for a school-related program.

“Their job, Alexis Johnson and Amir Deloatch, is to provide content for the Indian River High School YouTube channel as well as their Indian River High School photojournalism Instagram page, said Dr. Shabazz in explaining how social media is used to keep students informed.

And there’s even more…

Dr. Shabazz is also the play-by-play announcer for Indian River varsity football and basketball.

“Dr. Shabazz is an asset to Indian River High School. He continues to build relationships with the students in the classroom and outside the classroom and we are very fortunate to have him here at Indian River High school,” said principal Naomi Dunbar.

Principal Naomi Dunbar

Doc’s kids are winning in class and across the region.

They are the 2021-2022 Virginia High School League State Forensics (Public Speaking) Champion. The 5A Region Champion, 5AB Super Region Champion, and Class 5 State Champion.

This year, Dr. Shabazz was named Indian River High School Teacher of the Year. He was voted Faculty Homecoming King this year and he was a Citywide Teacher of the Year finalist.