I recently read a post from my favorite college professor reminiscing about some of the greatest teachers in his life. Forgive me Dr. Rogers for blatantly copying your form, but I’d like to take it for a spin.
Mrs. Flowers, thanks for showing patience with a shy soul like me. You knew when to push me to show my potential. But you never pushed too hard to scare me back into my shell. Second grade is very delicate age for a child and you handled it beautifully.
Mrs. Owens, thanks for guiding me through the most enjoyable year of my grade school life. That particular group was one of those once-in-a-career classes where everything seems to just click. So many of the friends that I formed in that class went on to be my closest companions throughout the remainder of my school years. You recognized the chemistry that group of students had. You harnessed it and encouraged it. And we flourished as a result.
Rest in peace Mr. Briner. While I only had you for one class, your gruff, unforgiving manner was enough to remind me that I couldn’t just coast through high school. I was unfortunately beginning to realize the law of diminishing marginal returns when it came to my studies. You made it clear that this was not an option in your class and this lesson helped keep me in line with future classes as well.
Thank you Mr. Hanke for being such a quirky, lovable fellow. My interest in physics was enough that I would’ve enjoyed the class no matter who taught it. But the fact that you had a genuine passion for the subject and encouraged our discussions (even if it took us off the planned course) helped to draw us in even more. And a special thanks for assigning us lab partners in alphabetical order. This always put me in a group with the two cutest girls in class. While I’d just met Holly at that point and had no interest in pursuing either of these girls, I still took IMMENSE pleasure in milking the jealousy it created from the rest of the boys in the class.
Jumping into my college years, Dr. Gonzenbach – my communications professor. To this day I STILL meet people who like to (lovably) swap stories about you. Granted, that’s partly because I now work in the field you teach. But that wasn’t my original plan. Yet the first course I took with you awakened my interest in this field to the point where I eventually adopted it as my minor (I was only 3 classes away from a double-major and wish I’d finished that now.) You brought a refreshing sense of the real-world into our classes and it’s one of the many reasons so many of your former students now thrive in this field. And for the record, my favorite Gonzenbach story goes like this:
It was a Thursday afternoon class early in the fall semester. The A/C seemed to be either out or off in our second-story auditorium classroom. It was hot. And there were a lot of sleepy students in this introductory-level class of ~70 people. We were still getting used to his teaching style but with his gregarious personality it was obvious he liked open discussion. But all the factors above (coupled with the fact that people tend to get shy about speaking up in a class that large) kept everybody quiet. In laughing frustration he eventually offered up the following bait to incite a response to a very easy question - “I’ll give 20 bucks to whoever answers the question.” We all chuckled in disbelief but continued to keep quiet. Finally one student meekly raised his hand and offered up an answer. Dr. Gonzenbach pulled out his wallet and gave the kid $20. He never made the offer again, but he didn’t have to. He now had our attention. And he held it for the rest of the semester (for many of us, for the rest of our academic career.) Perhaps it shouldn’t have to come to that, but $20 seems a dirt cheap price to pay for influencing that many students.
Dr. Paris was my inspiration during graduate school. She recognized and encouraged my unconventional plans for an extremely conventional degree. In fact, she was the one who went out of her way to open several doors for me in the private sector, in spite of the fact that she was in her last year of teaching and busily preparing for a move across the country.
And last, but certainly not least, Dr. Rogers. Unlike most of the teachers here, you’re already well aware of the respect I have for you and the role you’ve played in my life. For others reading this, it would take too long to relay here. But suffice it to say I consider him to be the most influential teacher I’ve ever had. His teaching went far beyond the classroom serving as a mentor and guide throughout my college years. Although I haven’t seen him in many years (we’ve kept in touch online for a long time going all the way back to the early EARLY days of email) I still consider him a friend.
I had other great teachers for sure, some more memorable than others. But these are the folks who immediately came to mind when looking back over the course of my time in school. It humbles me sometimes (especially being married to a teacher) to see how much effort and care they put into making a difference in our lives. It’s easy to take them for granted, but it’s impossible to overlook their influence.