What Students Appreciated in a Year Like No Other
Welcome to the fourth year of our Thank-A-Professor Program! Students have submitted hundreds of tributes so far this fall, and their outpouring of gratitude feels especially welcome as this difficult year draws to a close. Students expressed their heartfelt appreciation for the extra time and care you took to make remote learning work well despite the challenges, and they found the relationships you built with (and among) them to be sustaining in our trying circumstances.
Submissions are still coming in, and we will be sending your individual letters throughout the next several weeks. In the meantime, here are some patterns we noticed in the submissions. We hope they’ll make a wonderful start to your Thanksgiving.
#5—Students are grateful for all of the extra time and help you offered this semester; “above and beyond” was a recurring phrase in their tributes. Many lauded professors who offered “extra help such as the extra recitation and study sessions” or “took the time to host group sessions on Zoom for studying, since it is hard to all get together.” One said that their professor and TAs “go above and beyond to not only ensure each student is equipped to master each topic but spend extra time breaking down concepts and provide extensive opportunity to get assistance during this remote environment and hectic year.” Another said that their professor “always took the extra time to work with us and schedule conferences to make sure we were on the right track.” Yet another said, “[My professor] has gone above and beyond when I needed additional help outside of normal office hours and I am very grateful for such a wonderful and caring professor.”
#4—Every year, we see that students cherish the connections and the meaningful relationships you build with them, and this year was no exception. One expressed appreciation for a professor who is “incredibly approachable and always receptive to student input and needs.” Another said, “Not only is [my professor] a great educator, he also cares deeply about his students,” and thanked him for “dedicating his time not only to educating but also connecting with his students on a compassionate level.” Another thanked a professor for “giving me meaningful and heartfelt feedback during a time when I happened to be really doubting myself, which gave me more motivation than he could ever know.” Another gushed, “I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to [my professor]. I am indebted for her constant assistance, encouragement, guidance and the tremendous support and opportunities she provided, especially during the uncertain times of the COVID-19 pandemic. I do not have words to express my real appreciation…I consider myself extremely lucky to have her as my advisor, my mentor, my friend, and my family. Thank you so much!”
#3— Many, many students expressed gratitude for faculty who were able to make virtual learning “feel normal,” and they appreciated the effort you put into making Zoom sessions engaging and inspiring despite the challenges. Many made comments like this one: “Thank you for making a virtual classroom feel personal!” One remarked that her professor “really tries to connect with the students, even while virtual, and encourages feedback and participation.” Another admired, “When the pandemic struck, [my professor] transitioned extraordinarily into virtual teaching and continued to engage our class. He gave us nothing short of his best each time we met virtually. It showed. And it transferred. I am beyond blessed to have a professor who is so passionate about his work in the world and so devoted to the success of his students.” And many mentioned Zoom specifically: “Even though this is a trying time and classes are conducted via Zoom, [my professor] allows us to express ourselves as though we are right there in the classroom with him and he lets us be us!” and “Thank you so much for your hard work in making our class interesting, fun, and really informative over Zoom!”
#2—In a year that was also marked by social, political, and economic upheaval, students were especially grateful for courses that help them to better understand themselves and their world, and for professors who help them grow personally, professionally, and as citizens. One explained, “This is the first history class I’ve ever taken that actually focused on the non-white people and it honestly meant a lot to me…Taking your course just before the pandemic and explosion of discussion and change due to the black lives matter movement, you helped me by showing how ingrained racism is in our systems, and it even encouraged me to get more involved in my own culture. Looking back, it was frankly embarrassing and sad how l rejected my Hispanic heritage due to an internalized need to fit in, or not be seen as doing it to stand out. I decided to take a Spanish course for heritage speakers and get more involved in the HLSU to reconnect with my community, and I’m trying to be a guide for others as I learn more.” Another said, “As someone who grew up in an area where religious tensions were high, I’ve had little appreciation for the subject in the past. Since I began taking this course, however, I’ve found myself looking at the topic through a whole new lens. I’m so grateful for the insight this course has given me, because now I feel that I have a better understanding and a more comprehensive view of religion…I’m so grateful to have had you as a professor this semester. You’ve quite honestly changed my outlook on religion entirely, and encouraged me to challenge my own preconceived beliefs on the topic.” Another said, “Without [my professor’s] influence, I do not think I would have been prepared or equipped to get into grad school (honestly, I don’t think I would have even applied). He helped me make the connections I needed to when it felt impossible because of the COVID epidemic. Previously, I always felt lost and never knew what my future looked like career-wise until I took this class. [My professor] also helped me open my eyes to issues in the world I was previously oblivious to because of my privilege. Now that I can see these problems and better identify them, I want to help alleviate and address them in my lifetime as much as I can.” One even wrote to thank a professor for a class they took years ago: “Your course was one of my first college classes and I loved it. You were so passionate about the material and down to earth with your students. You encouraged us to explore topics that interested us as individuals, which fostered an incredible learning atmosphere. I absolutely loved how you motivated us not to just look for answers but to ask good questions. I took your class what feels like such a long time ago now but I constantly think about the lessons you taught me. Thank you for being a wonderful professor :)”
#1—More than anything else, students valued the flexibility and understanding you showed them during the pandemic. The outpouring of gratitude on this topic was truly remarkable. These are just a sampling of many, many examples:
- “I am so grateful to [my professor] for being so understanding, flexible, and supportive during a time that is difficult for her students, and undoubtedly difficult for her as well.”
- “Thank you to [my professor] for her continuing commitment to supporting her students, showing compassion and understanding during difficult times, and her dedicated mentorship of graduate students. She is a wonderful teacher and a force of good.”
- “[My professor] always checks in on us by starting class with asking us how we’re doing and talking to us about our lives briefly. He has also been so accommodating and helpful during stressful COVID times. He’s an amazing teacher and I want to thank him for being such a great professor!”
- “During this pandemic, [my professor]…has been accommodating to our situation as students. [Some] other professors don’t understand that we are going through many obstacles such as having lost loved ones, being socially isolated, and adapting to remote learning (as it is a daunting experience). [My professor] has continuously shown incredible compassion towards us. Being a student during this uncertain time has been very stressful and she sympathizes with us and dedicates time to check to see how we are doing. I know that while it’s been very difficult for us as students to adapt to online learning, it must be twice as difficult for professors who have multiple classes to teach while dealing with the loss of loved ones and dealing with family matters at home as well. Kudos to [my professor] for handling this strange time so well and for being such a great instructor.
- “[My professor] is amazing in the fact that she genuinely cares for students. After reaching out to her about mental health struggles and COVID issues, [my professor] quickly showed support and care for me and my situation. She is a blessing to FSU and embodies exactly what all professors should be like.”
- “[Professor,] you were one of my absolute FAVORITE professors I’ve had, across both TCC and FSU. While you held us all to a high standard, your grace and understanding were a god-send when I was truly going through a rough time.”
- “I loved how you started class with a new song every day. I even added some of the songs to my playlist haha. Thank you for making a class that I normally didn’t enjoy, enjoyable…Thank you for being understanding and helping me to stay on track when I got Covid and couldn’t come to class for two weeks. Thank you for taking the time to create a relationship with your students.”
- “I have faced so much adversity in my personal life since I began the program, especially losing my father due to COVID complications, but one thing that I can say is…no matter what, I always look forward to [my professor’s] class! He’s a hero and a great role model for us all! I could go on for days about how professional and motivational [my professor] is. Thank you for all that you do.”
Thank you for treating your students with so much care, and thank you for all you do.