Dr. Boffone Profile

Almost daily dance videos, 155,000 followers and comments filled with adoration can all describe a new Instagram account that has quickly grown in popularity since it started on Feb. 20. This account is different than most, however, for it belongs to Spanish teacher Trevor Boffone on the account @dr_boffone.

Though Boffone already had a personal account, he decided to create a new one to document his classes. Boffone did not expect that the account would become so popular      so quickly.

“I have been dancing with my students the whole year,” Boffone said. “Early February, they started telling me to make an Instagram account. I thought, ‘Okay, it will be a class thing. Maybe I can get 3000 followers’. By that Monday, I had 10,000 followers. By the next Monday, I had 70,000, and I realized ‘Oh, this is a thing’. I was even eating breakfast that weekend, and I got recognized.”

To create these videos, anywhere from 5 seconds to 15 seconds long, Boffone relied on his students to teach him. Through this process, he had become more aware of Internet trends, dances and culture.

“Usually, the kids would send me a video for a dance,” Boffone said. “I’ll try to learn it on my own, but they basically teach it to me. I’m a fast learner and much faster now because I know the moves, and I just have to put them together. Now, I’ll find a dance and ask people to do it with me.”

Boffone realized that his new celebrity status created a new atmosphere in his classroom. He decided to use this environment to encourage learning even more.

“The students are much more enthusiastic about coming to the class,” Boffone said. “For one, they think they have a famous teacher. They are excited to be there with me even though I am the same person I was a few                          months ago.”

Boffone had also taken advantage of the excitement surrounding his classes. He knew his popularity could be a way to incentivize students.

“I use this as motivation for them,” Boffone said. “One time when students got to class, I told the students that the first 10 to finish their work could be in the video. They were all wanting to do the work.”

Although there is a large aspect of fun within the account, Boffone saw the profound impacts his videos made on others. The positive reaction to his account has been unexpected for Boffone.

“What has been really surprising to me is the support,” Boffone said. “I expected there to be trolls and people telling me I could not dance. It has been overwhelmingly supportive.They are seeing that I am just having fun; I am not trying to be better than I am. I have had a ton of people DM me or message me. Someone recently wrote, ‘My dad died two weeks ago, and your videos are the only thing that make me laugh and smile’. Some people have written, ‘Thank you for being yourself, you have encouraged me to be who I am’. That has been really unexpected.”

Beyond engaging his students, Boffone hoped his account could inspire change in the education system. He had seen many issues and believed that something as simple as dancing could bridge a cultural divide.

“The reason there is success with this is that I am able to connect with students outside of my identity markers and who come from different backgrounds than me,” Boffone said. “There is a problem in education where teachers, especially white teachers, have a hard time connecting with students of color. For me, it has been a way to learn about their culture while they learn a bit about me. We get to meet in the middle, so I am able to reach students in a different way. Eventually, I would like to start doing workshops where I can help people learn how to reach students that are outside their identity markers.”