Joey Battaglia '04
"BEING AN EDUCATOR AS WELL AS A PERFORMER, HELPING THE YOUTH IN ADDITION TO TEACHING THEM WAS AN EASY DECISION."
"A teacher by day and rapper by night," Joey Battaglia '04, aka "Joey Batts" has become a local legend in the Hartford area as a teacher, musician, and community service leader. Originally from a small town in New York state, he made Hartford his home after graduating from the University of Hartford in 2004. As a teacher in the Hartford Public Schools, "Mr. B" has earned two nominations for Teacher of the Year and was a finalist in 2013. Inspired to do more after seeing homeless students in his classes, Joey became deeply involved in the community and is perhaps most well-known for his Hip Hop for the Homeless concerts—a series of concerts held each December throughout Connecticut to increase awareness and raise funds for the homeless in the state.
You've made Hartford your home. Can you describe your connection to the community and how that connection has grown over the years?
When I settled in Hartford after graduating, I knew immediately that it was a city on the "rise." It had a certain feel to it, an energy that allowed young professionals and young people with ambition to make plenty of headway. I decided to plug myself directly in the artist community, and get familiar with the creatives and the local businesses that were trying to establish roots. Once I created a name for myself and my work, I found it necessary to give back to the many people and followers that had supported me in my rise. Being an educator as well as a performer, helping the youth in addition to teaching them was an easy decision.
I have been teaching for almost 10 years now, and I've witnessed inner city teens dealing with a wide range of issues, and one specifically cold winter, I noticed students dealing with displacement for homes and homelessness. It shattered the archetype of what a homeless person may "look like" and I realized that some teens have to face the reality of not having a permanent home and a safe place to sleep at night. I was immediately inspired to do something to assist my community, and I started an outreach plan utilizing my local notoriety in the music scene.
You love teaching but music is your passion. Can you tell us how you got started? What inspires you to create music?
I think we are all driven by secret loves, desires, and talents that may not necessarily be what we spend the majority of our time on—perhaps they don't pay the bills, or we have been trapped in our workplace, or maybe we are scared to take the plunge into a less than "sure thing." But if we don't allow ourselves to spend energy on the hobbies or the side projects that our true selves need, we begin to develop a feeling of emptiness, or even hatred towards what we do every day. I think creating, writing, and entertaining crowds, and even painting are all things that I NEED to do, not just my passion. Education is wonderful, and I am thankful to be in the classroom every day, but if I didn't allow myself to spend time on these musical endeavors and side projects, I wouldn't be the well-rounded individual I am today. Furthermore, I probably wouldn't enjoy teaching as much as I do.
You must be a big inspiration for the young people you encounter. Do you try to encourage them to get involved in their communities?
I am extremely lucky that the students I teach every day pay attention to my extracurricular activities, and ask me weekly how they can get involved as well. Hartford Public Schools have a mandatory community service graduation requirement and luckily it gives the students the extra boost to want to spend time at community events and assist in clean-up activities, as well as help out at many of my fundraisers.
Was there anyone or an experience, perhaps someone at UHart, that shaped who you are today?
When I was an underclassman at UHart, I was part of the work-study program, and my position was in the Education office, under Dr. Regina Miller and Dr. S. Edward Weinswig. Although my position was mostly organizational and simple "grunt work," I learned a lot from shadowing those amazing individuals. I noticed how seriously they cared about the community and how integral it was to consider philanthropic endeavors and programs that uplift the youth and the citizens of Hartford.
More about Joey:
Joey Battaglia received a bachelor’s in secondary education with an emphasis in creative writing in 2004 from the University of Hartford. He performs around the Hartford area with his hip hop group, Joey Batts and Them.
Visit the Hip Hop for the Homeless Facebook page for updates.
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