Dante Plush

The Standup Teacher
Former Pace University student, Dante Plush

A guy walks into a classroom. The punchline? He changes lives.

Dante Plush ’16 is a standup comedian who performs at venues big and small—from Gotham Comedy Club to Greenwich Village Comedy Club to Broadway Comedy Club and many more clubs in the tri-state area. But his most important gig? Standing up in front of a classroom of kids looking to learn and changing their lives. 

Plush didn’t have it easy growing up—he grew up without a father, his classmates taunted him, and his teachers couldn’t relate to or understand what he was going through during these formative years. For Plush, that was motivation.

“I wanted to make sure that I would be the teacher I never had for the future students that will need that teacher,” he says.

At Pace, Plush combined his love of history, his flair for comedy, and his drive to make a difference, a recipe for success both in the classroom and on the stage.

A standup comedian, Plush was interested in understanding the way in which comedy can be used to educate students on current events. Working with Pace Professor Christine Clayton, EdD, the project entitled Educational Advocacy Through Use of Comedic Writing was the catalyst to Plush’s classroom management style.

“My experience with doing stand-up comedy definitely comes in handy when it comes to student engagement. One thing I see in common across many kids in this generation is this idea of ‘this lesson and this work is boring so I don’t have to pay attention or put in effort.’ When it comes to that idea, I pick my battles: What will be easier? Forcing kids to realize that they have to stay engaged no matter how boring the lesson if they want to succeed? Or just making your lesson so engaging and attention-grabbing that they won’t want to look away? I tend to teach my classrooms like I’m entertaining an audience at a standup show so I keep their attention,” says Plush. “My research with Dr. Clayton on comedy-infused education has really been the foundation of all of this work I’ve been doing with incorporating comedy into teaching.”

His graduate research on the Efforts in Cyberbullying Interventions for Elementary School Students has also made an impact. During the research, Plush analyzed fifth grade students’ perception of cyberbullying and the intentionality behind it. He looked at whether the students actually understand that some of their actions are considered cyberbullying when they are committing the acts. Through surveys, intervention, and post-surveys, he was able to find that students often are not aware that they are cyberbullying when they are in fact doing so.

After finishing his combined BA in History and MST in Educational Technology, Plush knew where he wanted to go—where he was needed most. Gravitating towards schools in financially-challenged areas in Mount Vernon and the Bronx, Plush ultimately landing a position as a sixth grade social studies teacher at a priority school in the Bronx.

There, Plush is responsible for designing and implementing lesson plans, activities, and assessments to ensure the success of his students. And one of the areas where he finds he really stands out is using his comedy and the research. For example, when doing a standup set, he notes that paying close attention to proximity and walking up to audience members can help engage them. The same goes for the classroom—if a student is losing focus, walking over and standing near them can help restore their focus and end the distraction. It can also help with classroom management, says Plush. And don’t forget, it’s not just what you’re saying, but how you say it—whether it’s using animated voices, acting out scenarios, or projecting your voice to really connect with the audience and classroom. Another important item to note is that “not all students are auditory learners and not all students have a same understanding of basic ideas, processes, and concepts that you have as an adult and teacher, so the visual aspect really helps the students grasp what you’re trying to communicate and lets them translate it into something that they can understand and remember,” says Plush. And in addition to creating lessons and teaching them, he’s also getting them.

“During the beginning of my first year of teaching last year, a student who didn’t have a father in her life asked me if I would go with her to our school’s Father and Child Night because I was like a father figure to her. That was very significant to me because in that moment, I saw myself in her—a kid growing up without a dad who didn’t have one who could go to dad-specific events with them,” says Plush. “It confirmed that I was turning out to be a good role model for my students because some looked up to me so much that I was a serving as a father figure for them.”

Plush takes interest in constantly analyzing the barriers to education within inner cities and the technological advancements in the education field and reflecting on his own pedagogical practices in order to find new ways to become a better teacher. At the end of his first year of teaching last year, his principal named him “Rookie of the Year.”

“During my short time as an educator, I’ve already discovered that an unfortunately large number of my students, past and present, live in homeless shelters with their families or are just flat out homeless like I was. An even larger number of students are constantly having utilities shut off at home like I did when I was younger. A large number of them use food stamps and government assistance like my family had to when I was younger. I think this relatability factor results in a few positive side effects: students feeling like you can understand what they’re going through will foster good relationships and rapport between you and them. If there’s good rapport, the students will most likely be more engaged when you’re trying to teach them. From my understanding, lots students in my area have no interest in learning from someone who they don’t believe can understand what they’re going through outside of school. I can push students at the right times. I can motivate my students to set higher standards for themselves. I can say, ‘Trust me, I know what you’re going through. I went through similar things when I was your age ten or eleven years ago, but you can’t just shut down and restrict yourself from trying to succeed. You gotta push through so you can give yourself a better future and give your kids a better life than you have currently,’” says Plush. “I think as a teacher, I serve as a real-life example of someone who could face similar challenges as a kid and still push forward, work hard, grow up, and become successful.”

Want to see Mister Plush in action? Read more about his standup on his website at  https://www.misterplushcomedy.com.

Former Pace University student, Dante Plush

A guy walks into a classroom. The punchline? He changes lives.

Dante Plush ’16 is a standup comedian who performs at venues big and small—from Gotham Comedy Club to Greenwich Village Comedy Club to Broadway Comedy Club and many more clubs in the tri-state area. But his most important gig? Standing up in front of a classroom of kids looking to learn and changing their lives. 

Plush didn’t have it easy growing up—he grew up without a father, his classmates taunted him, and his teachers couldn’t relate to or understand what he was going through during these formative years. For Plush, that was motivation.

“I wanted to make sure that I would be the teacher I never had for the future students that will need that teacher,” he says.

At Pace, Plush combined his love of history, his flair for comedy, and his drive to make a difference, a recipe for success both in the classroom and on the stage.

A standup comedian, Plush was interested in understanding the way in which comedy can be used to educate students on current events. Working with Pace Professor Christine Clayton, EdD, the project entitled Educational Advocacy Through Use of Comedic Writing was the catalyst to Plush’s classroom management style.

“My experience with doing stand-up comedy definitely comes in handy when it comes to student engagement. One thing I see in common across many kids in this generation is this idea of ‘this lesson and this work is boring so I don’t have to pay attention or put in effort.’ When it comes to that idea, I pick my battles: What will be easier? Forcing kids to realize that they have to stay engaged no matter how boring the lesson if they want to succeed? Or just making your lesson so engaging and attention-grabbing that they won’t want to look away? I tend to teach my classrooms like I’m entertaining an audience at a standup show so I keep their attention,” says Plush. “My research with Dr. Clayton on comedy-infused education has really been the foundation of all of this work I’ve been doing with incorporating comedy into teaching.”

His graduate research on the Efforts in Cyberbullying Interventions for Elementary School Students has also made an impact. During the research, Plush analyzed fifth grade students’ perception of cyberbullying and the intentionality behind it. He looked at whether the students actually understand that some of their actions are considered cyberbullying when they are committing the acts. Through surveys, intervention, and post-surveys, he was able to find that students often are not aware that they are cyberbullying when they are in fact doing so.

After finishing his combined BA in History and MST in Educational Technology, Plush knew where he wanted to go—where he was needed most. Gravitating towards schools in financially-challenged areas in Mount Vernon and the Bronx, Plush ultimately landing a position as a sixth grade social studies teacher at a priority school in the Bronx.

There, Plush is responsible for designing and implementing lesson plans, activities, and assessments to ensure the success of his students. And one of the areas where he finds he really stands out is using his comedy and the research. For example, when doing a standup set, he notes that paying close attention to proximity and walking up to audience members can help engage them. The same goes for the classroom—if a student is losing focus, walking over and standing near them can help restore their focus and end the distraction. It can also help with classroom management, says Plush. And don’t forget, it’s not just what you’re saying, but how you say it—whether it’s using animated voices, acting out scenarios, or projecting your voice to really connect with the audience and classroom. Another important item to note is that “not all students are auditory learners and not all students have a same understanding of basic ideas, processes, and concepts that you have as an adult and teacher, so the visual aspect really helps the students grasp what you’re trying to communicate and lets them translate it into something that they can understand and remember,” says Plush. And in addition to creating lessons and teaching them, he’s also getting them.

“During the beginning of my first year of teaching last year, a student who didn’t have a father in her life asked me if I would go with her to our school’s Father and Child Night because I was like a father figure to her. That was very significant to me because in that moment, I saw myself in her—a kid growing up without a dad who didn’t have one who could go to dad-specific events with them,” says Plush. “It confirmed that I was turning out to be a good role model for my students because some looked up to me so much that I was a serving as a father figure for them.”

Plush takes interest in constantly analyzing the barriers to education within inner cities and the technological advancements in the education field and reflecting on his own pedagogical practices in order to find new ways to become a better teacher. At the end of his first year of teaching last year, his principal named him “Rookie of the Year.”

“During my short time as an educator, I’ve already discovered that an unfortunately large number of my students, past and present, live in homeless shelters with their families or are just flat out homeless like I was. An even larger number of students are constantly having utilities shut off at home like I did when I was younger. A large number of them use food stamps and government assistance like my family had to when I was younger. I think this relatability factor results in a few positive side effects: students feeling like you can understand what they’re going through will foster good relationships and rapport between you and them. If there’s good rapport, the students will most likely be more engaged when you’re trying to teach them. From my understanding, lots students in my area have no interest in learning from someone who they don’t believe can understand what they’re going through outside of school. I can push students at the right times. I can motivate my students to set higher standards for themselves. I can say, ‘Trust me, I know what you’re going through. I went through similar things when I was your age ten or eleven years ago, but you can’t just shut down and restrict yourself from trying to succeed. You gotta push through so you can give yourself a better future and give your kids a better life than you have currently,’” says Plush. “I think as a teacher, I serve as a real-life example of someone who could face similar challenges as a kid and still push forward, work hard, grow up, and become successful.”

Want to see Mister Plush in action? Read more about his standup on his website at  https://www.misterplushcomedy.com.