By Jordyn Grzelewski
High-school physics teacher Steve Hlaudy has an inside joke with his students.
It’s something he calls the “Effective Happiness Index,” or EHI.
The way he sees it, people can rank from negative three to three on the index. The happier other people are to be around you, the higher your score on the EHI.
“Mr. Hlaudy always talks about physics, mainly, but then he always adds these short life lessons,” explained Max Lee, a senior at Canfield High School. “He talks about something called the Effective Happiness Index.”
“To us, Mr. Hlaudy has a three,” Lee said.
“Eh. That’s maybe a little high,” joked senior Hamzah Hassan.
Hlaudy’s students probably rank pretty high on the index, too, after recent events.
On Dec. 23, the last day of school before winter break, Hlaudy walked into his classroom. There, a horde of students presented him with a wrapped package.
He thought it might be a new sweater.
A video shows the look of stunned excitement on his face as, instead, he unwrapped a brand-new HP laptop, picked out and paid for by his students.
“Are you freaking kidding me?!” he exclaimed.
The idea for the gift came about after Hlaudy’s students took note of his comments about the slowness of his old computer.
“Whenever it was loading for like three minutes, he just kind of made a joke about it. He said, ‘Maybe you guys should get me a laptop for Christmas!’” said Lee.
Little did he know that his physics class would take that suggestion to heart. Someone – the kids haven’t told Hlaudy who – spearheaded the project to raise money for the gift.
It started with the physics students and then quickly caught on with the cross-country team.
Students say they decided to plan the gesture because of the impact Hlaudy has had on them.
“He’s a really good teacher, and he’s one of everyone’s favorites,” said senior Caroline Griswold.
The gesture caught on outside the walls of CHS, too. A video of Hlaudy unwrapping the computer has close to 3 million views on Instagram. Videos posted on Twitter have gotten tens of thousands of retweets and likes.
Hlaudy also has received dozens of phone calls, texts and emails prompted by the video. Especially nice, he said, are the emails he’s received from former students who have reached out to say that they, too, were impacted by his teaching and think he’s deserving of such a gift.
“This is so Canfield,” said Hlaudy, who lives here and has three children enrolled in the district. “It really is a special place.”
Teachers, he said, usually remember with particular clarity just a handful of experiences that defined their careers.
“As a teacher, there are probably four or five big things I’ll remember. This is one of them,” he said.
Aside from teaching physics, Hlaudy also tries to impart to high-schoolers that, even at their age, they have the power to change things and impact other people.
“They need to know, you have the ability to make other people happy, or unhappy,” he said.
The message seems to have stuck.
After opening his gift, Hlaudy told his students: “In 22 years, this has never happened.”
Hassan quickly replied: “Because we’ve never happened!”
And that’s the point, Hlaudy said.