ATLANTA (KTVU) - It happened in a college algebra class, but the lessons learned during Professor Nathan Alexander's lecture last week went beyond math, demonstrating what dedication and leadership through compassion and understanding look like.
Last Friday, Morehouse College senior Wayne Hayer had a math class he had to attend. But the full-time student who holds two jobs, found himself without childcare for his 5-month-old daughter. His wife is usually with the baby but had to be somewhere, so he was left in charge.
With an upcoming math exam, Hayer didn't feel like he could afford to skip class. During a previous lecture, his professor had found out that Hayer had a baby at home and invited the student to bring her if he was ever in a pinch with childcare.
So the student apprehensively decided to take his instructor up on his offer. With his daughter strapped to his chest, Hayer walked into his math lecture hall not only as a student, but in the active role as dad.
"I was extremely nervous coming to classroom with this baby," Hayer told KTVU. "I was going to turn around and leave and Dr. Alexander saw me turn around and he was like, 'No, no, no please come in.'"
Photos Hayer shared with KTVU show the dad strapping the baby carrier onto his professor.
Fellow student Nick Vaughn was in class and later took to Facebook to share the heartwarming events that unfolded. "... to my surprise we had an unexpected special guest in class today," Vaughn wrote. "As one of my peers walked into the classroom with his child in arms he quickly explained to my professor that he couldn't find a baby-sitter and had nobody else that could watch her."
What that professor did in response has been shared tens of thousands of times across the country and around the world.
"'No problem, in fact I will even hold her so you can take better notes in class.," Vaughn quoted the professor as saying.
But it went even further. Not only did Alexander hold the infant for the duration of the 50-minute class, he continued with the childcare duties even afterward, as he fielded questions from students with the baby still strapped to him.
Those who have read the story and seen the photos are praising both the dedication of Hayer as father and student, as well as the empathy, compassion and touching display of support from his professor.
Twitter user @turissabackstar commented, "Takes a village... also kudos to the student who didn't want to miss class even tho they had no babysitter. I firmly believe you get out of an education what you put in. This student wants to learn. This prof loves to teach. A winning killer combo!"
For Vaughn, he said watching this exchange between teacher and student provided another example of the supportive environment offered at Morehouse, an all-male, historically black college.
"It was this encounter that truly showed me the power and impact HBCU's [historically black colleges and universities] can have for the black community," Vaughn wrote, "for this professor to understand that life happens and sometimes there are just no ways around it."
Alexander has strong ties to the Bay Area. He used to live in Oakland and taught in the region. Photos on his website show him with students at UC Berkeley, the University of San Francisco, and with kids from his 5th grade geometry class at Oakland School for the Arts (OSA).
He's popular among those he's taught, with many describing him as their favoriite teacher who really cares about his students.
"He has a hands-on, students first approach," Hayer described of his professor.
The images of Alexander holding his student's baby have now gone viral, but for the 34-year-old instructor, the moment was a simple extension of what he practices as an educator as a whole, as he seeks to use his expertise in math for a far greater reach -- to make positive changes in his community.
"I am learning how to use mathematics to engage in and write about social movements, collective action, education and justice," it says on his website, professornaite.com.
For Hayer's wife, Firda Amalia Hayer, the professor's generosity came during a time her family needed some help.
"With us being thousands of miles away from family and friends, I'm usually left with the baby to myself," she wrote on Facebook. "Anyone who is and has been a new mommy understands how overwhelming it can get."
She had words of gratitude for the outpouring of support she and her husband have received from family, friends, and strangers alike. And she had a message to leaders like her husband's professor who make a difference in their community.
"Thank you for encouraging us to continue to push forward," the wife wrote, "Thank you to black educators like Dr. Nathan Alexander for your compassion and understanding. This came at the right time."
This story was reported from Oakland, Calif.