Trends | ‘Plaid Avenger’ Pulls Off The Remarkable

There’s a saying about those who teach, often attributed to Henry Brooks Adams, that goes something like this: “A teacher affects eternity, he never knows where his influence stops.” In this series of screenshots, while it may be subtle, there’s quite a lot going on. On December 5, 2011,  Burmese opposition leader and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Aung San Suu Kyi skyped in to an interview with Virginia Tech geography Professor John Boyer and his 3,000-student World Regions geography class. The “Plaid Avenger” (Boyer’s online alter ego) and his class previously requested via YouTube an interview with the recently released pro-democracy leader who is on U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s shortlist of key world leaders to meet with. What’s clear from Blacksburg, Virginia is the electric energy from this crowd of invigorated and invigorating students and a professor with passion for connecting them to the real world beyond their spirited campus. What’s less clear is who is doing the teaching: Aung San Suu Kyi as a symbol of hard-won freedom who is a living lesson for students even beyond this lecture hall; Boyer for having the guts and simple genius to create an opportunity and bring it into his classroom to make a real and meaningful connection, or the students themselves whose infectious energy is a lesson to anyone who might leave their mark on the world—reminding us all of who we are dealing with when we say, students are “the future”. If lessons include studying, then as you study the reaction of Aung San Suu Kyi to this crowd (click here to watch the Vimeo, pull it toward the end when Boyer allows his students to show their gratitude), remember from where she came and see if you can’t help but smile alongside her elation. Jessy Irwin, a former student of Boyer’s now out in the ‘real world’, brought all this to our attention a few days ago. She for one has been affected by Boyer’s influence. In the right hands, technology tools can really go a long way. What other examples are there of teachers doing something like this? We’d love to hear them and share them here.


  1. I so glad the rest of the world can now experience this great teacher! Boyer’s class should be required at VT.
    I’m a 52yr old mom of 4. My oldest son took Boyer’s class several years ago and he was so excited by the class that I paid to take this class myself. I learned more about this world I live in under him than I’ve picked up in my 52 yrs and in my studies in both undergrad and grad school. Long live the Plaid Avenger and way to go Boyer!

  2. I used to watch the news in the US, thinking that it was enough to know what was going on in the world. Still, I wouldn’t have even known who Aung San Suu Kyi was before I took John Boyer’s 3000 student class. I still follow the plaid avenger to know what’s on the horizon. You all might like to check it out at

  3. I was a student in Dr. Boyer’s first 3000 student World Regions class and no other experience in my life comes close to being as relevent, interesting, andthought-provoking! Its no suprise to me that if anyone could pull this off, it would be him because his motivation to teach really inspires everyone around him as well as those all over the world. Virginia Tech is lucky to have him and so are his students!!!

  4. Being in his World Regions class this semester, and doing what we have managed to do (Aung San Suu Kyi, The Way), things which just don’t happen in college courses, has been an amazing experience. Boyer’s charisma, passion for teaching, and just general awesomeness allowed us to make these things happen without even pausing to think about failing. When we used “if” we really meant “when” we would pull it off. Boyer makes us want to learn, and to put ourselves out there in the world to see it for ourselves, rather than being the typical know-nothing-about-the-world college students. This class has been something I will always remember, and has been my absolute favorite class ever.

    I’m even thinking on sitting in on the class next semester when I can, just because it’s that awesome.

  5. As a middle school social studies teacher, I am inspired by Professor Boyer. His students are so fortunate to have him, and he is fortunate to have Hokie students.

  6. I’ve had the pleasure of working with John Boyer on the Plaid Avenger. We actually made a comic about the Burmese struggle for democracy and Aung Sang’s personal fight for freedom. John is such a big personality and so outgoing, it’s great to see the quality of education he is bringing to his students! He keeps upping the bar, I can only imagine what his next big plan is.

  7. Professor John Boyer’s World Regions class has been one of the most rewarding classes I have had the opportunity to be a part of. This video chat was absolutely inspirational and I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to be in attendance.

  8. Fewer and fewer people are truly passionate about anything these days. Mr. Boyer however is truly passionate about what he does however which is really refreshing and inspiring to see a teacher who still gets excited about his work and follows through with his promises.

  9. I still can’t believe all of the amazing things that have happened in this semester’s World Regions. Professor Boyer is an outstanding teacher and his enthusiasm contagious. He has truly changed the way I view the world and the role of technology. A live interview with Aung San Suu Kyi is hopefully just the beginning for this awesome professor and class.

  10. John Boyer’s classes were some of my favorite in college. I was excited to go, excited to learn, and had a great time doing so.

  11. I’ve never had a professor like Boyer before. His reputation, along with my desire to learn about the world, pulled me to take this class. I’ll forget the grammar I’ve learned over the years, the math equations have already been wiped and replaced with facts from this year or definitions from last year, but this class? This class I will remember forever, the passion, the energy, the drive that came from The Plaid Avenger, the teaching assistants, and my classmates. This is how you really learn, this is how you really connect. Books are great, don’t get me wrong – I’m an English major so I can’t diss them, but they only teach you so much. This goes so much deeper. It’s not repeating facts and memorizing names and faces, it’s learning how and why the world works. It’s nothing except sheer brilliance.

    • As someone who is six years removed from taking his class, I can’t tell you how right you are when you say you will remember his class forever (and I didn’t even get to talk to Suu Kyi). Boyer’s main lesson is that we live in a vibrant, changing world; learn as much about it as you possibly can and don’t ever stop learning. That’s the lesson I took from one (one!) semester with him, and I hope everyone else has the same experience.

  12. John Boyer does it again. I will never cease to be amazed by his constant enthusiasm and passion for teaching. From “flash seminars” (impromptu, informal lectures somewhere on campus for anyone to hear) to his accessible and relatable resources online, he continues to innovate the world of teaching. I can’t wait to see what he does next. This skype session is truly inspirational and changes the way students see the world.

  13. Professor Boyer is by far the best professor I’ve had; he inspires his students, knows how to get their attention, and he has the ability to turn world affairs into a passion for anyone who takes his class! I’m the living proof, I am now pursuing a master’s degree in that field thanks to his class I took during my last semester at Tech!
    And a professor who can get a live interview with Aung San Suu Kyi just says it all…there should be some kind of award for that! The Plaid Avenger rocks!

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