TODAY   |  March 25, 2014

Teacher brings Elvis inspiration into classroom

TODAY’s Bob Dotson travels to Sand Springs, Okla., to tell the American Story of a teacher who’s using his talents (including impersonating the King of Rock ’n’Roll) to inspire students, reminding them to keep their promises.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> we are back at 8:41. and today's american story with bob dotson comes from oklahoma where bob found a teacher who is using his talents and a simple message to inspire people.

>> all right. here we go.

>> some of us are lucky enough to have had a great teacher. a cheerleader who shapes our lives.

>> senior class, what's your cry?

>> frank cooper does more than shout. like a poet, he wrote something that sticks.

>> kyp stands for keep your promises.

>> even now, kelsey morris, the busy manager of a convenience store remembers those letters a decade out of high school . their meaning so significant, he has them tattooed on his wrist.

>> it's a daily reminder to keep my promises. it was important to be the person you tell people you're going to be.

>> frank believes that, too. he studied to be a lawyer and for seven years was quite successful, but didn't like the person he became.

>> for a long time in my life, i was a taker. and, you know, what can you do for me kind of guy?

>> two decades ago, he gave up a lucrative legal career, took a 50% pay cut to become a high school teacher. sometimes when you climb the ladder of success, you find it leaning against the wrong wall. tell that to the woman you met in law school . the brilliant lawyer you married.

>> sounds like an, oh, my god, going to work with a bunch of 14 and 15-year-olds. it's got to be worse than being in court yelling at somebody, right?

>> he called her after his first day of class.

>> honey, i might have made the wrong choice.

>> so he tried something else. it's one for the money two for the show three to get ready

>> in frank cooper 's class, history comes alive.

>> thank you very much.

>> this is america!

>> there's a star fish on your head.

>> nothing helps a teenager learn like laughter.

>> i can't believe she broke my arm.

>> with all this silliness, frank is simply keeping a promise, the one he made at his father's death bed.

>> i promise you, daddy, the next time you see me, i'll have done something to make you proud.

>> so year after year, he scrawls kyp, keep your promise, on his classroom chalk board and sets out to do just that.

>> what has somebody done for you to make you feel a little bit more significant?

>> reporter: he persuaded matt wood, a star football player to look beyond the football field and the family ranch.

>> i didn't decide to go to college until april of my senior year of high school . and that was mostly due to mr. cooper.

>> this spring, matt graduates from medical school . at times like this, frank believes he sees his father.

>> and i think about my daddy. and i think about him nodding his head. and i want to say, daddy, i'm proud of this kid. and i had a part of that.

>> am i having some bad hair? okay.

>> i did that on purpose.

>> hi. are you in the book club ?

>> another former student turned down a tv career to become a teacher just like mr. cooper.

>> has it hit you you're taking all of this life lesson from an elvis impersonator ?

>> well, let's just say i hope elvis never leaves the building.

>> oh, but he has. they take out into the world his words of wisdom , the ones he tells them every day.

>> you're important, i love you, and the joy of life is in the journey.

>> you're important, i love you, and the joy of life is in the journey.

>> you guys are important, i love you, have a great day, may the joy of life --

>> the journey.

>> the best of him lives on through them.

>> an american story in oklahoma.

>> it works, too. because we should tell you that a lot of the students who have him as a teacher increase their college entrance exam scores by 30% to 40%.

>> the elvis effect we'll call it.

>> well, you'll have to dress like elvis to help your kids with their homework.

>> dress up like spongebob.

>> anything to get the grades