Nathan Alexander is a 34-year-old math professor at Morehouse College, an all-male historically black institution in Atlanta.
On Friday, one of his students, Wayne Hayer, was unable to find a baby sitter or arrange for someone to look after his baby girl, Assata. So Hayer brought Assata to Alexander’s class.
But before he began teaching, Alexander offered to hold Assata so that Hayer could take “better notes in class,” according to another student, Nick Vaughn, who shared the encounter on social media.
Alexander taught the entire 50-minute class while holding Assata in his arms. He continued to carry her for an additional 10 to 15 minutes after class while helping students with questions about the lecture.
Vaughn shared photos on social media, capturing the heartwarming gesture. The encounter has since gone massively viral, with people hailing Alexander as a hero.
Vaughn and Hayer didn’t return a request for an interview.
Alexander told BuzzFeed News on Saturday that at first he was worried about looking after Assata during the lecture.
“I’m not a father, I don’t have children of my own,” Alexander said. “I was worried that she would start crying. But it actually went perfectly. She was extremely well behaved.”
Alexander said he bounced the baby up and down lightly and patted her during the lecture. He even joked about lulling her to sleep with his teaching.
“When she started falling asleep, I told the class, ‘I guess I’m being boring right now,’” Alexander said.
During office hours, Alexander said he had noticed that Hayer often had to leave to take care of his daughter. Two weeks ago, he told Hayer that he could bring his daughter with him anytime he needed to.
“Anything I can do to support you, let me know,” Alexander recalled telling the young father. “That’s what I’m here for as an educator.”
In a Facebook post, Assata’s mother, Firda Hayer, responded to the outpouring of love and support that their family was getting.
She said that she and Hayer were new parents and that her husband worked two jobs along with being a full-time student.
“With us being thousands of miles away from family and friends, I’m usually left with the baby to myself,” Firda wrote. “Anyone who is and has been a new mommy understands how overwhelming it can get. Wayne wanted to give me a break. Plus, he’d get to spend more time with Assata in the process. It’s a win-win. Thank you for encouraging us to continue to push forward. Thank you to black educators like Dr. Nathan Alexander for your compassion and understanding. This came at the right time. We plan and Allah plans; verily, Allah is the best of Planners.”
Vaughn also praised Alexander and the support that HBCU’s provide to the black community.
“It was this encounter that truly showed me the power and impact HBCU’s can have for the black community, for this professor to understand that life happens and sometimes there are just no ways around it,” Vaughn said in a Facebook post.
Hundreds of people celebrated Alexander’s gesture, including several of his students, who said he was their favorite teacher.
People also praised Hayer for his dedication as a student and a parent.
Some expressed their gratitude to their own teachers for being supportive.
Others noted how instrumental all teachers are to changing lives.
Alexander’s gesture even inspired other professors to offer students help with child care.
Alexander said that teachers were doing their “own versions of this” throughout the country.
He said the reactions to his gesture were a “nice recognition” of teachers as well as students who are also parents.
Alexander stressed the importance of finding ways to create access for students who are parents and to support both male and female students with children.
“This is what we do as teachers,” he said.