Part of teaching remotely during a pandemic, says adjunct professor Adam Shrager, is you never know when you’re being filmed.

Thanks to the video efforts of a student in one of his statistics courses at The College of New Jersey, Shrager has gained worldwide attention this month via a clip on social media showing his reaction to a class flashing signs stating their appreciation for his efforts this semester.

“It hit some sort of a zeitgeist, something the world needed: ‘Teachers doing good captured on video during this impossible time for teachers,’ ” says Shrager, a member of Local 2364.

In the clip, a puzzled Shrager can be heard at the start of his 6 p.m. class on Dec. 2 saying “Does anyone have their video on?” when he doesn’t see any students’ faces.

Within seconds of asking that question, the students turn on their cameras and hold up handwritten signs thanking him for a great semester.

Shrager’s reaction was immediate and genuine. He’s heard saying, “That’s like the nicest thing I’ve ever seen.” He goes on to ask, “Is that a thing or was that just for me? I need to know.”

“Just for you,” two students reply.

From there, the class continued pretty much as planned, with Shrager presenting a PowerPoint review. Upon its conclusion, Shrager says he took a 10-minute break for some food, then taught his scheduled 7:30 p.m. TCNJ statistics class before calling it a night.

He learned of the video — and his viral fame — the next morning through an email he received from one of his students at Hopewell Valley Central High School, where Shrager teaches mathematics full-time. The student informed Shrager he was trending on TikTok. The email contained a link to the TikTok video (shot and posted by TCNJ junior Veronica McClosky), and when Shrager clicked on it, he noticed it had about 400,000 views at that point.

The video views have grown considerably since then, and so has media interest in the star of the clip, with Shrager being contacted by “Good Morning America” and coverage appearing in other outlets as well. He’s also received emails from people in Iceland, Spain, Canada and across the United States who have seen the video.

Asked to pinpoint what he did that could have prompted those students to show their appreciation in that manner (an effort organized by TCNJ sophomore Katherine De Oliveira), Shrager cites the time during the semester when a student was on her rooftop on Long Beach Island for that night’s remote class. When Shrager noticed the sun setting behind her, “I stopped the class, and we all just watched the sun set for a couple of minutes,” he recalls.

“I think you had to do that this semester,” Shrager says, adding there were other unplanned bonding moments like it that also went a long way in pulling the class together, getting the students to trust him as a person and making them realize “that we’re all in this craziness together.”

Adam Shrager has been an adjunct professor at The College of New Jersey for about 10 years.

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