Teaching can be a thankless job at times, but one group of students from the College of New Jersey recently found the perfect way to express their gratitude to their professor.
Earlier this month, Adam Shrager logged onto Zoom to teach his statistics class and was surprised to see that all of his students had turned off the video function.
"Usually, in this class, solidly 90% of the students keep their cameras on the entire class. Sometimes they even send me a note apologizing that they will keep their camera off during a particular class for one reason or another," the 54-year-old told TODAY. "Logging in and seeing no faces at all was very strange. All I could think was that my internet was slow or something."
This was the last class before the final exam and Shrager, who works as a high school teacher by day, was concerned that he and his students would end the semester on the wrong note.
"He consistently asked us about our mental health, our family members, and our furry friends while introducing his own pets to us."
Suddenly, though, the adjunct professor's students began to turn their cameras on in unison and each of them was holding up a unique sign that thanked him for his dedication to his craft.
"As their cameras clicked on, and I started reading the signs, I was overcome and truly moved. Even a bit teary. It was incredible and sweet," Shrager recalled.
Some signs simply read "Thank you" and others featured creative statistics references like "You are in the 99th percentile of my all-time favorite professors."
One of Shrager's students captured the heartwarming moment on camera and shared it on TikTok, unbeknownst to him. The post quickly went viral and has since been viewed 5.7 million times.
The next morning, Shrager received an email from one of his high school students informing him that he was going viral on TikTok, and the teacher was understandably shocked.
"The fact that they did this for me is something I will never forget. The fact that they put it out into the world and it exploded the way it did is a testament that, apparently, it is something we all needed right now. I just happened to find myself in the middle of it all," he said.
Katherine De Oliveira, an Urban Secondary Education with Mathematics major at the College of New Jersey, decided to organize the surprise for her professor as a way to celebrate the end of the semester. The 20-year-old told her classmates her idea the afternoon before their last night of class and she wasn't sure how many would participate.
"From the group chat, I had less than half of the class give me a response so I was nervous of being possibly the only one with their camera off and turning it on to show a sign. However, as soon as I entered and saw everyone with their cameras off, I knew the moment was going to be beautiful!" she told TODAY.
De Oliveira said she felt compelled to thank Shrager for being such a great professor.
"He consistently asked us about our mental health, our family members, and our furry friends while introducing his own pets to us," she said. "As a student, I could never tell when he had a particularly difficult or great day prior to class because he always welcomed us kindly and was excited to talk to us and teach statistics."
Veronica McClosky, who shared the video on TikTok, told TODAY she's surprised that it went viral so quickly and hopes that other students also take the time to thank their teachers.
"I currently am getting so many mentions on TikTok of other creators doing the same for their professors and teachers as well. It is so refreshing to see teachers and professors getting the recognition and appreciation they deserve," she said.
As for Shrager, he's still feeling humbled by the whole experience and said it was the perfect way to end a difficult couple of months.
"It's been the roughest semester of my teaching career, but somehow we got through it. For it to end like this is genuinely beautiful, and pretty crazy," he said.