Features

Mr. Bertollo’s Instagram Following: Connecting with Students in a Digital Age

By: Julia Lees

Recently, Mr. Bertollo’s Instagram has taken the school by storm. Mr. Bertollo, James Caldwell High School’s Vice Principal, has been operating his instagram since May of 2018. He posts events from the school like sports games, food drives, club events, as well as pictures of his family and his life outside of JCHS. On September 18th, Mr. Bertollo’s instagram follower count jumped from 200 to 300 in mere hours. The next day, he reached 400. Less than three days later he reached his 500th follower. The following

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week, 600 followers were reached. Now, with a grand total of 656 followers, Mr. Bertollo gained 456 followers in the span of three weeks. I sat down with Mr. Bertollo to find out what he thought about these events, and about social media at James Caldwell High School as a whole. 

When I asked Mr. Bertollo why he thought students gravitated towards his Instagram, he said, “At first, to be completely honest, I thought it was a joke… Now I think that people realize that it’s really for your benefit. I try to celebrate and honor the students as best as I can. Anything that is an accomplishment… I want people to know about it.” Mr. Bertollo posts pictures of all different kinds of school events, featuring many students at JCHS who have won awards, teams competing, and clubs getting together. During Soccer Saturday, Sam Mulick and Isabel Caravella won the Col. John McHughs Award. Many students may not have known of their accomplishment if not for Mr. Bertollo featuring them. Students are represented and supported through this platform, and Mr. Bertollo’s dedication to the support of his students. 

Regardless of why students latched on to Mr. Bertollo’s Instagram, it is clear that they did by the scene in the cafeteria on September 20th. During our common lunch, senior students stood up on the cafeteria chairs and yelled for everyone in the room to follow Mr. Bertollo. He said, “As I was standing in the cafeteria I could see the number going up and up and up.” Later that night at the football game, again “They had a sign and the numbers started going up.”  I asked him how he felt that day. He responded, “It was very overwhelming. To the high school world it’s hard to tell if students are doing it to be supportive or doing it as a joke, but the crew that did it, I feel like they were doing it to be supportive…It feels good that the students recognize that what I am trying to do is for their benefit.” 

Social media, for students, can be an essential part of social life. I asked Mr. Bertollo if it is important to have a way to connect with students through social media. He said, “I do. I think that social media can have its positives and negatives. I’m trying to do it in a positive way. I think connecting with them any way you can is important, but if you are doing it positively through social media, then I think that accomplishes everything.”

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Expanding more on the overall effect of social media on people, I asked whether social media was an overall positive or negative force. Mr. Bertollo responded, “It has both. It depends how you use it. If you do it the right way and use it positively, then I think it’s a good benefit to have, but of course just like a lot of things there’s a negative side too…there are definitely examples where I’ve come across people trying to do it in a negative way to get a reaction…those are the things that you have to filter out.” He said that he will often delete comments that are negative on his instagram as soon as he sees them. 

Finally, I asked the question on everyone’s mind: what’s next for @cwcjbertollo? He said that he tries to post everyday, but the main goal is staying visible and “to raise awareness of what the school is doing.” Mr. Bertollo does not just post about the school, he also posts parts of his personal life. He spoke to that saying, “I also like to throw in my own little things, pictures from the Yankee game, a picture of my dog last night; things that I feel like will connect with the students … being an administrator, you always get the stigma that your an authoritarian and you’re not a real person and you’re a robot, and everybody thinks negative things about you automatically, so I try to use the Instagram as a way to show people that I am a real person too.” In the end, Mr. Bertollo is our vice principal, but he is also a person who truly does everything he can to connect with students, and make them feel heard. As long as Instagram is the best way to do that, Mr. Bertollo will be there.

Go follow @cwcjbertollo on Twitter and Instagram!

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Photo Courtesy of Julia Lees