Alfredo Hernandez traded his classroom in the Bronx for his kitchen in Flatbush.
And his whiteboard for pieces of paper.
Hernandez works for Education Through Music, a nonprofit that provides underserved schools with music programs. He was hired in 2019 and never expected to be conducting virtual lessons from his home
But like so many others during the pandemic, he had to adjust. And so did his students.
“How can I make them the most comfortable in this brand new environment. It really does take modification on the spot,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez pushes to make his class different from the rest of the elementary schooler's day.
“It’s a brain break,” he said. “I call it like a show-like environment. So they’re calling out ways to perform and what songs I should play next and different activities to do.”
After so many hours staring at screens, Hernandez says kids need this time out from the more traditional classroom pace and an opportunity to express their creativity.
“They’re tired, and you can tell by their faces that they’re fatigued. But they’re really happy to be there.”
As learning environments continue to change, Hernandez adjusts his classes, too. He uses games and incorporates student ideas to keep everyone engaged and excited to learn.
“I had a student tell me, ‘could we actually like draw how we’re feeling as an activity?’ and I was like, ‘You know what, take two minutes, draw how you’re feeling and we’ll take it from there,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez says he is impressed and inspired by the resilience of his students. And excited they’re able to put the books away and pound out the rhythms for a little while.
“And it’s awesome, that even in a year where we’re wearing masks in the classroom, you can hear that just as strong as ever before,” Hernandez commented.
For strumming up smiles Alfredo Hernandez is our New Yorker of the Week.
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story referred to the nonprofit “Education Through Music” as “Education for Music.” The story has been edited to correct the mistake.