Standing in four inches of flood water, one UC San Diego professor continued teaching his calculus class this week during powerful El Niño storms, earning major credit with students.
On Wednesday, amid pounding rainfall, numerous weather alerts – including a brief but rare tornado warning – and water sloshing at his feet, visiting Professor Kenny Barrese went on with his lecture in a flooded classroom at Peterson Hall on the UC San Diego campus in La Jolla.
His commitment to teaching calculus was captured on video by students, including Tony Murillo, who described the professor as “casually” continuing with his vector calculus lecture “despite a tornado advisory and serious flooding in the room.”
“His actions are a testament to the dedication of UCSD's faculty,” Murillo said, describing the video clip. “P.S. He did end up letting us out early.”
Barrese, now in Seattle, spoke with NBC 7 by phone Thursday. He said no matter the rain, his vector calculus class needed to go on.
The professor said his class, although very wet, did at least capture the attention of his students.
“If it makes the students receptive to being in a math lecture, I am happy for it,” he told NBC 7.
UC San Diego freshman Tonya Zazueta was in Barrese’s class, and student Cynthia Sanchez was in the professor’s lecture an hour before the big rain hit.
Both students told NBC 7 they were shocked to see the professor standing in the flood water, teaching away.
“He's standing in a puddle but he's pretty cool in doing that,” Sanchez said.
Students were surprised the class continued. They alerted friends on social media about the professor’s dedication to his job.
Barrese said he owed it to students to deliver despite the flooding. He said students who braved the weather to get to class that day deserved to be taught, and to get their money’s worth.
“My students seemed to think there should be class, and since I was there, I suppose there should be class,” Barrese added.
The classroom at Peterson Hall seats about 400 students and, despite the heavy storms and wild weather, the seats at Barrese’s lecture were more than three-quarters full.
The flood water pooled at the bottom of the classroom, near the chalkboard and the first row of seats. It was only Barrese with his feet in the water, while students sat above the wet row of seats.
Floor fans were used to dry out most of the classroom.
On Thursday, only a small puddle remained under the chalkboard – but the impact of Barrese’s lecture lingered.
Zazueta said the professor’s perseverance inspired her. Someday, she would like to teach math too, but she now realizes the profession takes more than good grades.
“I think I have to step up my game,” Zazueta said.
When asked if the classroom had flooded before, Barrese kept his humor about the situation and, of course, spoke mathematically.
“I've lectured in that auditorium twice, so I can say for sure it's been dry half the time,” he quipped.
On Friday, the El Niño storms slowly cleared in San Diego, giving way to some sunshine after a very wet week. Though not as heavy, more rain is expected to arrive Saturday evening.