Costumes in the time of COVID - Local teacher puts a fun spin on online learning

By Mandy Underwood

Wabash High School math teacher, Niko Macaluso has, like other teachers, been taking the national pandemic in stride and teaching his students through online video lessons.

Unlike many other teachers, though, Macaluso has put a creative twist on the video lessons. Each day he has donned a new costume to make learning more fun for his students who are stuck at home.

Macaluso is a Wabash native and a 2008 WHS grad. He attended Trine University to earn his Bachelor’s in Mathematics.

Following his undergrad education, he attended IPFW for a year to earn his master’s degree. When a teaching job opened at WHS seven years ago, he took it and continued to pursue his masters while teaching full time.

Macaluso is the father of two girls, Thea and Mila and the fiancé of Miranda Miller. They plan to wed in October.

Currently, he is the math department chair at WHS, teaches A.P. Calculus, A.P. Statistics, Precalculus and Trigonometry. He also serves as the senior class sponsor and this year finished coaching boys tennis, which he did for the last three years.

Macaluso said that after a positive response of himself doing an impression at the start of a lesson, he decided to continue the entertainment while teaching his daily lessons.

“Our first eLearning Day I just screen recorded myself walking through problems,” he said.

“When I re-watched it, it was nearly putting me to sleep so I can only imagine how my students felt. So, I asked them if they would rather me do that or actually record myself up at the board teaching. Most everyone preferred me to teach at the board.

“This wasn't going to be anything I hadn't done before, because I started a math YouTube channel for, like, 2 months, then I became too busy. so at least I had some experience. That morning I was set to do my next lesson. I just had a random thought to record myself impersonating Lebron James, my favorite athlete. So, when my fiancé posted it on Facebook, everyone loved it. So, I decided that I'd try to do something new for each video. My family has always been big into Halloween, because of my Mom, so I had a few costumes that I could already come up with.”

As for the other costumes, Macaluso paid out of pocket for them.

“Let’s just say I used some of my stimulus check to purchase some new ones and I won't ever have to buy any more Halloween costumes for the rest of my life.”

The costumes, according to Macaluso, do not normally tie into his lessons. 

“Sometimes I'll do a short intro message to my students in character,” he said. “For example, I did Gandalf the Grey who is popular for his saying ‘You shall not pass,’ which was my message for those students who hadn't been putting in the effort in my class.”

Macaluso said that the feedback from the community, parents and fellow faculty has been positive, but that he is unsure how many students are actually tuning in for all of his video lessons.

“If they just get on there for a few to see how I am, maybe they'll stay for some actual instruction. Everyone loved Joe Exotic, which has been trending during the quarantine.”

Although Macaluso enjoyed doing these videos, he is relieved that the school year is ending.

“It has been fun to do all the different videos. Miranda, I think will be happy that we'll be done getting daily Amazon packages. I'm just glad the school year is coming to an end, because I was starting to run out of ideas for different costumes,” he said.

Posted on 2020 May 19