HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — Having energy can be tough in the morning, but when you are a student in Matt Alexander’s eighth grade social studies class, you have no choice but to deal with a lot of energy coming at you.
In a roughly 1 1/2 hour class at Thomas Eaton Middle School in April, Alexander, 35, never stopped moving. He taught both students virtually and in-person while juggling props such as a gavel, pocket-size Bill of Rights, and even his own wallet.
A student better not nod off, for at any moment that prop could and likely will land in their lap.
“When you come to Mr. Alexander’s class you know you are going to laugh,” said Makenna Young, one of his students.
Alexander’s philosophy is to keep things high energy and current.
During 10 On Your Side’s visit, Alexander had all students weigh in on the recent George Floyd case through the lens of the judicial system.
He said tapping into current events was especially important during all virtual learning at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Changing the game is my passion,” Alexander said. “We’re a YouTube channel and if we’re not interesting enough or (students) are not engaged with us. Flick. They change the channel.”
Students of Alexander’s never know what he will be wearing. He said to get into character for the day’s lesson he will wear anything from a historical hoodie to a plethora of hats and wigs.
“What my main focus is, is to have as much engagement as I can with my students. As long as I can,” Alexander said.
When thousands traveled to Washington D.C. last September to mourn the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Alexander and his class were among them — virtually.
Alexander taught the class from the steps of the Supreme Court and had them all witness the art of civil discourse as activists argued their opposing viewpoints.
“It’s not the same as other classes or other social studies classes I’ve been in because he relates to like the real world stuff happening in the world,” said student Yashir Hilton.
Alexander said while his teaching his important, it’s the relationships he builds that mean the most to him.
He became emotional recalling the story of a student — that he didn’t teach — who he once stopped from getting into a fight with another student in the hallway.
A year later, that same student came up to him to ask for advice on how to stop a fight between other friends.
“I had no idea who this kid was. But I had done something that made a difference for him and what I’d done allowed him to make a good decision in the future. My main focus is not an SOL test at the end of the year,” Alexander said. ‘”But if you’re a better person on the last day of my class then the first day that’s how I judge myself as an educator .”