Thankful for Your Teaching
Welcome to the seventh year of our Thank-A-Professor Program, which invites students and alumni to send messages of thanks anonymously to their professors. Students have submitted hundreds of tributes this fall, and we hope their gratitude will warm your Thanksgiving.
We’ll be sending individual letters to their recipients over the next few weeks. In the meantime, here are the three themes we noticed most often in this year’s submissions. We hope that each of you feels appreciated!
1. Creating a Welcoming Classroom Climate
In their messages of gratitude, students described how much they appreciate the ways you make them feel welcome and comfortable in your classrooms. They mentioned how the mutually respectful environments you create help them to feel more comfortable to engage in open discussion, ask questions, take intellectual risks, and even overcome fear of failure. Here are just a few of many examples:
- I would like to thank this professor for his ability to foster a comfortable and open environment for discussion. His cultivation of material is excellent and I have truly enjoyed learning from him.
- [My professor] was exceptionally engaging, making it virtually impossible not to be excited by the material. This was the first course since the pandemic I have not struggled with attendance in, and it was due to his all-in approach as well as his immense patience with students, creating a safe environment to fully commit to the course without fear of judgment or failure. While this subject is something I have long been interested in, I know I could easily have given in to frustration or embarrassment were [my professor] not the wonderful instructor he is.
- Thank you so much for being such an amazing professor! You make Trigonometry actually enjoyable and I always feel confident going into exams because of all the support you give the class. Also, you are one of the kindest people I have met. I never fear to come to you for help or to even have a conversation with you because you are so welcoming with a wonderful smile on your face. Being my first semester, it has been difficult academically, but your class is one I always look forward to. Thank you for being you, and I hope you are very well appreciated by myself and everyone that I know who is taking your class. I am so grateful to have you!
- This professor made me have a special interest in the course she is teaching…She is a helpful, engaging, comforting professor who always seems to help me when I need anything. Thanks to her, I feel as though I learn better in this course because I feel comfortable in her classroom.
- This professor took it upon himself to personally ensure that every student in the class had a full grasp on the concepts. He fosters an incredible, collaborative environment where no one feels marginalized or excluded. He is the true definition of a great professor—and one that should be recognized as such.
- [My professor] is such a down-to-earth instructor. She really created an environment that fostered discussion and where everyone felt heard and respected. I had the pleasure of taking multiple courses with her and wish I had been able to take more.
- You’re one of the first professors who bothered to ask my name since being here at FSU. You make your class fun and inviting when the topic can be daunting sometimes! Thank you for all you do and making your classroom such a fun space to learn and make friends in! It is truly obvious that you love to teach and that you genuinely want us all to succeed. It’s so refreshing to see in a big university where it’s easy to feel lost. Thank you!
2. Helping Them to Develop Their Thinking
The work that you do to help your students develop as thinkers does not go unnoticed! They made many comments about your efforts to help them think in new ways and about new topics; the intriguing questions you posed or helped them to pose; and your mentorship of their intellectual development. Here are some examples of students’ thanks for all you do to help them grow as thinkers:
- This professor has changed the way I think about myself and my world. She poses difficult questions that challenge you to rethink your most foundational assumptions and she sincerely cares about advancing her students’ critical thinking skills through literary theory. Her class has changed me as a scholar and as a person!
- Before taking this class I had no idea what proof writing would look like! Of all the classes I took at FSU, intro to advanced mathematics changed the way I think the most. At the beginning of that class you said that it was hard to teach proof-writing, that it was mostly about practice. Well I have had a lot of practice, but I think you did a great job.
- Thank you so much for all you do to expand our perspectives! I’m always so excited to come to psychopathology. It’s so obvious how much you care about the subject, and it really shows in your teaching. Every class is engaging! A lot of professors say they encourage us to disagree with them, but you’re the first professor I’ve had who genuinely seems interested in what we’re saying. Thank you for taking us seriously and making what could be a boring class fun!
- He leads very relevant and insightful discussions in class that make me reconsider texts and critically evaluate the rhetoric I see everyday. I always feel smarter after taking this class. In addition, he’s very encouraging of students expressing their creativity in projects. I have the freedom to structure my final project of the year, and it’s been nice to be trusted with that responsibility. He’s a great teacher!
- Before taking Intro to Philosophy I was pretty bummed that in my very first semester, I would have such a boring class where it was all about endless questions about “what am I” or more useless questions that didn’t matter. But now it’s honestly one of my favorite classes that I’m excited to go to and learn. [My professor] is amazing at teaching and has really opened my eyes to why societies think or act in certain ways. I love going to his class and just thinking about why isn’t this right, or why is this wrong. [My professor] has single-handedly changed my opinion about philosophy as a whole and I’m just so grateful that I’m in his class now. Thank you, [professor].
- He is the kind of educator that makes you feel smart and validated as you talk with him. This is especially important because he is absolutely brilliant but incredibly humble. Discussing ideas with him makes you feel seen as a young scholar with contributions to the field.
3. Building Relationships and Expressing Care
The relationships you’ve built with and among your students make learning possible. Rather than a nice accompaniment to skillful teaching, connecting with students is fundamental for their intellectual, professional, and personal growth. In Relationship-Rich Education, Peter Felten and Leo Lambert explain, “Decades of research demonstrate that peer-to-peer, student-faculty, and student-staff relationships are the foundation of learning, belonging, and achieving in college. Students’ interactions with peers, faculty, and staff positively influence the breadth and depth of student learning, retention, and graduation rates, and a wide range of other outcomes, including critical thinking, identity development, communication skills, and leadership abilities” (p. 5).
This year, we noticed that many students’ expressions of gratitude also made this connection between the relationships you took care to develop with them and their learning and success in your courses. They especially appreciated your expressions of interest in and care for them as individuals. Here are just a few of many examples:
- I would like to thank this professor because she makes learning fun within every class. She is very engaging and genuinely cares about the education and well-being of her students. She takes the time out of class to walk around and get to know everyone and their names, and I’ve never had such an amazing teacher!
- Thank you for everything you do for us. I know you care about our well-being and developing us as individuals and I want you to know it’s helped me grow so much. You are a very genuine and kind person and I promise one day we will all make you proud.
- I would like to thank this professor for igniting my passion for learning again. I felt so lost and undervalued until I took his class and realized I am a very valuable student with skills applicable in any work field I choose. I appreciate the time he took to just talk to me about life and give me some insight into his.
- Even though I have had him as a professor for only 2 or 3 months so far, he is by far the nicest and most supportive professor I have had at FSU. You can really tell he cares for his students. As a first generation Hispanic who also wants to go into the medical field, it is hard to find professors like him to ask for advice and who teach with such passion. Thank you for what you do!
- I want to extend my heartfelt gratitude to [my professor] for being a tremendous source of inspiration and support throughout my academic journey. As a student with ADHD, I often struggled with feeling like I didn’t belong in [my major]. However, his teaching methods, empathy, and genuine understanding of the challenges we face made a world of difference. His success story, despite the hurdles of ADHD, has been a source of hope for me and countless others. Thank you, [professor], for being a remarkable role model and for showing us that we, too, can achieve success.
- You have reignited my love for biology that I thought I lost after biology in high school with a mean teacher. Your passion for your students and for the topics make all the difference…you make it more than just material, you make it an experience. Thank you so much, I’m literally tearing up because we all just love you so much and you’re the best STEM professor I have ever had!
- What makes [my professor] really stand out not only as a professor but as an individual is how he creates a community of like-minded and kind people around him who help and inspire each other. I learned a great deal about engineering/innovation in his class but my biggest take away was more than just the curriculum. He showed me the kind of person I want to be, not just the job I wanted to have when I graduate.
Thank you for all you do!