Michael Berg is a biology teacher at Crockett Middle School in Irving, but that’s not the only thing he does. He is currently the extraordinary leader of the Crockett Middle School Dance Club, a safe place where children can meet twice after school.
“I was starting to learn hip-hop on YouTube and I felt like I could teach them more things,” Berg explained. “In fact, one of the first dances I taught my kids was the one I learned from a video, and it was way too hard for all of us, but we did it! This year there I auditioned for the Dallas Cowboys Rhythm and Blue I didn’t make it but it whetted my appetite for hip-hop and from there I learned everything I could in the local and online classes and it escalated from there.”
Berg eventually made the Dallas Cowboys Rhythm and Blue team and still finds time for classes and the dance club.
An NBC 5 Today producer found the dance club videos, which have tens of thousands of views on YouTube. She decided to release a Halloween-themed video one day. Berg saw this clip aired and said it was overwhelming for him and his students. The group is noted for the work it has done.
It’s more than just a dance club for the dozens of students who attend.
“Dance Club is a free after-school club open to all Irving ISD students. Our school is a Title I government-funded school, and our children come from very low and low socio-economic backgrounds,” said Berg. “Most of our students are having lunch for free. But that’s not who they are. They are normal kids trying to do the same as everyone else. They grow up and face challenges and struggle to get over the stress of working at school and dealing with their own problems. At the dance club, I currently have about 40 beautiful children who just want to learn to dance because it’s fun, and there’s no usually no judgment that can come with college.
Berg said his own life was filled with anxiety. One of the most important lessons he learned was to find ways to focus on the present moment and take it one day at a time. Recently, Mr. Berg said he spent a very emotional afternoon with the students at the dance club. An afternoon that proved that these children count on the dance club and Berg.
“Once in a while, instead of dancing or following a program, the kids and I dump our problems on paper,” Berg said. “It doesn’t matter what we talk about, and it doesn’t matter what we write, as long as we are honest so that the exercise gives us the most emotional value. For 10 minutes, we don’t talk, we just write. We don’t put not our names on the paper so no one knows who the paper belongs to. I’ve had kids write about everything from the pain of not having a boyfriend or girlfriend, to coming home every nights with a parent who uses drugs and alcohol and having to be the adult in the household at 12. When we’re done, and we’ve “taken” our problems out of our minds and placed them on something physical like paper, we physically “eliminate” them. We crumple them up and throw them away to symbolize that we are bigger than these issues.
He said he wanted students to know they have the ability to beat anything they face, as long as they focus their attention on the right things.
“After that, on another piece of paper, we strive to come up with 10 positive things about our day. It can be big or small, but the only rule is we have to have 10,” Berg said. “Most of them will struggle to find 10, and that’s when I remind them of things like they’re part of the only dance club in the district, the one that happens all around Irving, or that they have a dance club teacher who loves them and will do anything to see them happy. And the most important thing that we all write is that we are worth it. It’s a something I struggle with. That’s of course when the tears start to flow, for both of us in general.
Berg also has big dreams. He hopes to go back to school to become a doctor.
“Right now, doctor or teacher, something that’s becoming more and more evident in my life is that making time for the things that process your soul is of the utmost importance,” he said. . “I feel good when I dance. I feel cool and I can use emotion to express in ways no one else can. I struggle a lot with my own self-confidence and being able to to really feel the movement of a song that really excites something deep within is intoxicating and cathartic I would say I’m so passionate about it because I feel so good when I dance that I feel like that everything will always be fine.
“But more importantly, I want my children to experience the same feeling,” he said.