When many of his class piano students began struggling with the shift to online class because of a lack of access to physical keyboards, Charles Lewis, lecturer of music at the University of Tennessee at Martin, began searching for solutions to ease the transition.
Lewis says that even with the incorporation of a virtual piano, at least 20% of the students in his class were still falling behind. After searching on Facebook Marketplace, Lewis was able to purchase five keyboards throughout Tennessee and Kentucky with his own money and personally deliver them to his students’ houses across West and Middle Tennessee.
“When you have students who are very confident in what they’re doing, making very good grades, playing everything that they’re asked to play, and they seem to be the ones who are struggling, I just felt like I had to do something,” said Lewis. “That’s what we do as teachers… it’s what we do for our students. It’s UT Martin.”
Byron Cupples, a sophomore music major from Newbern, and a recipient of a keyboard from Lewis said having access to a piano now has allowed him to be more productive and have a better understanding of the material taught in his class. While the transition to online classes has been challenging, the piano Lewis brought him makes it feel like he is back in Lewis’s class at UT Martin.
“I really did not expect that amount of generosity; all of my teachers are very helpful, but the amount of work they have gone through to help the students is amazing. It really makes me feel like I am at a place where the professors care,” said Cupples.
Lewis believes that each of his students deserves the chance to do well in his class despite the shift to online courses and that it was his responsibility to ensure they have that chance. He is using this experience to readjust how he works with students and to be more attentive to the struggles they are going through.
“At the end of the day, I have to feel good about what I have done in order to help these students be successful and if I haven’t gone the extra mile, I haven’t done my job.”