NewsEye on Education


Williamsville student enjoys celebrity science lesson

“It was a lot of fun"
Posted at 5:30 AM, May 21, 2020

WILLIAMSVILLE, N.Y. (WKBW) — Keeping students engaged in remote learning has been challenging.

But as the school year is winding down for students at home, parents might be interested in signing up for a free-on-line video lessons called varsity tutors.

Some celebrities are providing remote lessons.

Michael Otto, Patti Otto & Lucy Otto of Williamsville.

“For me, it was just kind of interesting seeing someone else talk about a science subject than my teacher,” responded Michael Otto, 7th grader, St. Gregory the Great School, Williamsville.

Television sitcom start Mayim Bialik from The Big Bang Theory is one of the celebrities partnering with Varsity Tutors, a national company, offering “Star Courses”.

Bialik taught a lesson called “Our Amazing Brains” and 40,000 students watched.

“I like anything brain related,” declared Bialik as she started the lesson.

“She's actually a neuroscientist, Phd — neuroscientist in real life,” said Brian Galvin, chief academic officer, Varsity Tutors in Los Angeles. “A couple of minutes before and she admits to me this big Hollywood celebrity - I’m a little bit nervous.”

Varsity Tutors has been providing on-line learning for more than a decade for K-through 12 students. But then the pandemic hit, sending children all across America home to learn.

“How are you able to provide this for free to families?” I asked.

“We really wanted to use this as a way to kind of show of what we've seen of the power of on-line education,” replied Galvin. “These celebrities are really passionate about sharing their subject matter.”

Brian Galvin, chief academic officer, Varsity Tutors in Los Angeles.

Astronaut and former NFL player Leland Melvin also taught a science lesson watched by 26,000 students, including a 13-year-old student from Williamsville.

Otto reflected on watching the lesson.

“His first spark was a chemistry set that he blew up, using the chemistry set that he really didn't know who to use,” Otto explained. “He talked about how it was like to get into space. How much pressure you feel when you're going up in the rocket.”

His mom, Patti Otto, signed her son and 12-year-old daughter Lucy up for the celebrity lessons.

“Knowing how excited he was when he finished the class and he came down and I thought he would be like —ahhh — it was okay, but he really liked it,” Otto explained.

The astronaut even engaged with the Williamsville student when his mom posted a photo of her son during the lesson.

Michael Otto, 7th grader at St. Gregory the Great, interacts with astronaut and former NFL player Leland Melvin.

“So it didn't just end at the class, it was continuing also with his way of communicating with these kids,” Otto noted. Her daughter Lucy even got to enjoy a class with Olympic gold medal gymnast Aly Raisman.

Both students say they will sign up for more lessons.

Their school year at St. Gregory the Great officially closes June 15th.

“And since I’m passionate about science that was kind of like a cool way how I learned more about space,” Otto said. “It was a lot of fun and some of my friends participated in it too.”