by Deborah Walker
For countless schools around the globe, in-person attendance was cut short this spring because of the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The preventative measure of social distancing is a practice grasped more easily by adults; but for socially active young children, such restrictions are difficult.
Today, May 14 would have marked the end of the 2019-2020 academic year for students at Levittown Baptist School in Levittown, Puerto Rico. Understandably, the mandated March school closing kept children safely sheltered in their homes, but understandably saddened.
Imagine the surprise of the students who recently received a drive-by visit from their teacher, Pedro "P.J." Rodríguez Rivera. The 2011 Nyack College alumnus was determined to deliver joy, hope and love to his 32 third graders. By their reactions, there was no doubt his mission was accomplished.
The business administration major who minored in computer science says, "I never thought I would end up teaching, but God's powerful purpose in my life guided me to make the right decision." Clearly there is a special grace for this enthusiastic educator who gives 110 percent to the boys and girls in his class and courageously without a teaching assistant.
"I love all of my students and I have always completely devoted myself to them by trying to give them the best third grade experience of their lives. I always say they are 'my kids.'" There is no doubt he is more than a teacher to the little ones he refers to as "32 good reasons to persevere in these times of trouble." Wearing his mask, he visited each of his students at home and held up a poster, which in English reads, "Jesus loves you and so does your teacher!"
A celebrated Nyack College baseball player, Pedro Rodríguez is sufficiently versed in exuding team spirit. During his time as a Warrior, he was recognized as the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC) Batting Champion (2009), the Daktronics All-East Region 1st Team Shortstop (2009), ABCA Rawlings Division II All-East Region 1st Team Shortstop (2009), Nyack Player of the Year (2010), Daktronics All-East Region 2nd Team Shortstop (2020) and All-CACC Shortstop 2nd Team (2010).
Rodríguez, who learned of Nyack from his junior college baseball coach remarked, "The Nyack experience was amazing and unforgettable. I met many amazing friends and I built a family over time, experiencing true Christian growth. Jesus used Nyack College to not only make me a better athlete, but to transform me into becoming a better Christian. I have grown spiritually, intellectually and I have been prepared and equipped for the challenges of life. I would highly recommend Nyack College to anyone."
Academically and athletically trained for success, this season of his life is a time when Pedro draws on his spiritual transformation. "I am an instrument of God," he declares. "I believe this is the perfect time to continue spreading throughout the world the love that Jesus has for each and every one of us."
There are 32 young people in Levittown, Puerto Rico who will agree that their teacher's expression of love hit the ball out of the park. See how that love was reciprocated on Maestro's birthday.