This science professor at Tidewater Community College has made it his mission to make classroom learning fun by performing demonstrations and sometimes ‘crazy’ stunts during his lectures.
The 69-year-old physics professor has been teaching at the Virginia community college since 1974.
“It was my very first job out of graduate school,” he told BuzzFeed News. “I never thought I’d be at the same place my entire life, but it’s been a wonderful place. I’ve really enjoyed it.”
Knowing that many of the students taking his conceptual physics class are education or health science majors who are completing a prerequisite or an elective, Wright has been finding creative ways to keep them engaged.
Instead of simply discussing scientific principles, Wright is a firm believer in the power of teaching through demonstration. By making ice cream for his class using liquid nitrogen, deflating balloons and letting them fly across the room, and making flames appear, the science professor successfully keeps his students interested.
“It keeps them focused,” he said. “We’ll talk about what might happen. We’ll do the demonstration. We’ll talk about why it happened the way it did. I’m trying to show them how physics applies in the real world. They really appreciate being able to do that and see the applications of that.”
An 18-year-old sophomore named Erica Church is one of those appreciative students. She took the professor’s physics class as a prerequisite for her sonography major.
“I was a little worried going in,” Erica told BuzzFeed News. “On the first day of class, he actually walked on a bed of broken glass. I was like, this is a little crazy. I’ve never seen a professor doing this before.”
Erica was so fascinated with Wright’s teaching style, that she decided to capture his demonstrations on video. On December 11, Erica uploaded a video compilation of his stunts on Twitter.
Her post went massively viral, earning 26.6 million views, 1.7 million likes, and 458,000 retweets at the time of writing. The student was surprised that it blew up the way it did, as she only expected for the clip to get a few hundred likes and a couple of thousand views.
The science professor gained many fans on social media.
As Erica received an influx of likes and retweets on her post, she emailed Wright to let him know of his newfound internet fame.
He replied with a heartfelt message: “Thank you very much for sharing that with me. It was an amazing semester, because I had amazing students.”
“I was just amazed. It’s incredible,” Wright told BuzzFeed News about his viral fame. “I’m blown away.”
“I’ve often hoped I could reach people,” he said. “I see my mission in life as to get people excited about science, so it really remains relevant, exciting, and fun. I’ve always tried to do that in my class, but I never expected to do that on this scale.”
“Maybe someone will see the video and think, oh, I should really take physics and learn more about this remarkable stuff that’s going on out there.”
Wright, who has four children and seven grandchildren, earned the recognition “Professor of the Year” in 2017. A spokesperson from Tidewater Community College told Yahoo Lifestyle in a statement that he “just keeps getting more passionate and energetic with the years.”
Watch the video below to learn more about this passionate teacher.
Kudos to Professor Wright for his brilliant efforts in making science easier and enjoyable for his students! Don’t you wish we all had a teacher like him?