Teacher Breaks the Mold With Online Classes

Jorge Manolo Villarroel's online classes have actually become popular
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 13, 2020 1:00 PM CDT
Teacher Breaks the Mold With 'Superhero' Classes
Art teacher Jorge Manolo Villarroel, wearing a Spider-Man costume, teaches an online class from his home, amid the new coronavirus pandemic in La Paz, Bolivia, Tuesday, June 9, 2020. "Education stagnated in traditional molds. After the pandemic everything will change, including education," Villarroel...   (AP Photo/Juan Karita)

Sometimes, Jorge Manolo Villarroel is Spiderman. Sometimes, he's the Flash, or the Green Lantern. But he’s always a teacher—one who lives out his childhood dreams by dressing up as superheroes for the locked-down students who attend his virtual classes, the AP reports. His classes have become so popular that siblings fight for the laptop screen to learn from this costumed teacher. They, in turn, often offer him tech help. "They arrive to the virtual classes before me and the first surprise is to guess which superhero will appear on the screen," said Villarroel. At 33, Villarroel speaks with the passion of a child. His modest room is filled with the masks and costumes of his characters, along with images of Christ, several Roman Catholic saints, revolutionary Che Guevara and his parents.

Villarroel, who lives in a poorer neighborhood of the Bolivian capital, teaches art at the San Ignacio Catholic School in a wealthier area. His students range from 9 to 14 years old. "For years, they have entered our adult world, now it’s time for us to open up to their world, which is chat," he said. The class begins with a Zumba-style warm up (Villarroel is also a Zumba instructor), followed by a prayer and then superhero music, to set the proper atmosphere. Forty-five students follow the online classes. Villarroel himself makes the costumes he wears. At times, with his glasses, he looks as much like a disc jockey in front of a computer as a superhero. "Education stagnated in traditional molds," he says. "After the pandemic everything will change, including education."

(Read more education stories.)

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