Celebrity videos enhance e-learning at JMS



JASPER — Jasper Middle School students in Brent Seibert’s seventh- and eighth-grade math classes were treated to a surprise during Tuesday’s e-learning.

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban addressed the students in a 35-second video to introduce that day’s lesson. The Indiana University alumnus explained who he was to those who did not know him, and he encouraged everybody to get their work done, expecting an A from all of them.

Seibert used to teach at Princeton, and found Cuban’s email address during a student fundraiser. He wanted to see if it still worked, and the billionaire co-star of ABC’s “Shark Tank” answered his request about two to three hours after he made it. Seibert sent Cuban some information for the video the next morning. Cuban followed through a day-and-a-half later. Seibert’s reaction was one of ecstasy.

“It was pretty insane because it came through about 11 o’clock one night,” Seibert said. “My wife (Karin) will tell you I went nuts, thinking that, ‘Oh my gosh. I can’t believe he actually sent the video!’”

Eighth-grader Reece Egbert, 14, appreciated Cuban’s gesture, because he knows something like that doesn’t happen every day. The fact that the NBA championship-winning owner took time to make a video got Egbert’s attention and boosted his interest.

“It makes you think that he believes in you a lot more,” Egbert said.

Jasper Middle School Principal David Hubster asked teachers to make a video every day so the students can see their faces during this time, Seibert said. Seibert did some other unique things — dressing and performing in character as Darth Vader, and also as Si Robertson from “Duck Dynasty” in videos during the first week of e-learning. Seibert only has so many costumes, though, and wanted to see if somebody else would be kind enough to do the videos.

Cuban is one of multiple celebrities Seibert has reached out to. He wanted to mix things up during this period of uncertainty and school not meeting due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Indiana closed schools’ doors for the rest of the year on Thursday, though e-learning will continue. This has been Seibert’s way of making things fun for his students and lifting up their spirits.

“It’s making me look forward to his class every day,” said seventh-grader AJ Huelsman, 13, who was still shocked by the Cuban video on Wednesday.

Seibert’s students are hoping other celebrities will follow suit. Super Bowl winning-coach Andy Reid of the Kansas City Chiefs also addressed JMS students in a video on Thursday.

Egbert, being a New York Yankees fan and a baseball player, is hoping Derek Jeter does a video. Seibert has obliged the requests and sent more emails.

Not seeing his students presents its challenges, but Seibert said they’re still turning in their work. He describes himself as an old-school teacher, and the technology has been a struggle for him, but he’s thankful for the support staff. It’s been unique for him to create assignments online and communicate via email. He added the students are staying engaged, asking questions, and parents have communicated with him as well.

Egbert and Huelsman are just two of the many students Seibert misses during this time, though he won’t get to physically be with the eighth-graders before they move on to high school. He enjoys teaching so much, and this has been difficult for him.

“I tell my students all the time I don’t wake up in the morning and dread going to work, I wake up in the morning excited to go to work, and I can’t wait to get there,” he said.

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