There are so many professors and teachers who have made big impacts on me throughout my life. I can’t name them all, but I do want to take a moment to talk about a few and to just point out what a HUGE difference a teacher can make. These people taught me so much about myself and about the world, and I will always be infinitely grateful for what I’ve learned from them.
It is crazy how vulnerable I was as a young adult. Thinking back on it, it blows my mind how little I knew (and how little I know now). I was not arrogant in my assumptions of the world—I knew I didn’t know much. But to look back on it and see the difference is amazing. To look back on teachers who saw value in me and understood and yearned to help and who did make a difference. Teachers I think of and miss. I’m so thankful I’ve had so many wonderful role models and people to teach me the ways of the world—even if I’ve had to learn most things by trial and error.
Mr. Johnson // 10th through 12th grade
My favorite teacher of all time. I loved many of my teachers, and all of them for different reasons, but Mr. Johnson was great in every way. I had him for three classes, and by the end of my senior year in high school I was taking his classes just to have a class with him. I learned so much with him. He taught me why Shakespeare is great, how to digest a good short story, how to take damn good notes. He taught me so much about life.
He was hard on me when he needed to be—once, I was going through a really hard time. My work suffered as a result. I can remember when I started getting my groove back. I got a test, and on it was an A and the words “you’re back!” He was the only one of my teachers who had even noticed something was wrong.
It doesn’t hurt that he climbed a tree to illustrate a point and once threw water everywhere while acting out Moby Dick. There is so much to be said about Mr. Johnson—I even wrote an essay about him, once. He was one of my most influential teachers at a time when I was very easily influenced. I even gave him a few pieces of creative work for him to edit—because that is how much I trusted him and his opinion. He was the absolute best, and the older I get and the more I reflect on it the more I realize it. I can never thank him enough.
Dr. James // freshman & sophomore at Oakland Community College
Creative writing classes were always awfully intimidating to me. I was a budding writer—just learning my strengths and weaknesses. I had written a few bad novels and bad poems when I wandered into his summer Creative Writing class, anxious and nervous. But over the following months, I would listen to strangers read my work out loud and then discuss it. I would draft and redraft poems. I would get my work torn apart.
It never made me cry like I thought it might—I loved it. I loved the dissection of things. I loved hearing others thoughts. I loved Dr. James’ comments on my work and his enthusiasm for poetry (something I had never thought I would be any good at). I loved his methods. I loved it so much I took Advanced Creative Writing.
It was even more wonderful. I wrote good poetry. I learned about my writing and my style. I had help taking things apart and putting them back together. I read some damn good short stories and discovered new authors. Dr. James, through his feedback and help, helped me grow into the writer I am today. It was through his class that I wrote a poem that won second place in a college-wide contest. It was him who taught me that I am, actually, a poet.
Danielle DeVoss // junior & senior at Michigan State University
I first met Danielle as a high school senior when I decided I wanted to attend MSU for the Professional Writing program. She convinced me that it was the program for me, and stayed in touch the whole two years I was at community college. When I came to MSU, finally, and had a class with her, it was wonderful. Danielle is a professor who dolls out useful assignments, gives helpful critique, and edited my cover letters and resume. She wrote me reference letters. She helped me gain a stronger understanding of the way the real world works.
When we went to NYC on a study-away, I had one of the best times of my life. Danielle took us to some of the most amazing places. She bought us hot dogs. She gave us assignments that were actually enjoyable and that actually taught me something. She made the experience something to remember—especially for someone at age 21 (hey, I might have made a few irresponsible decisions… I learned from them….). I was so lucky to have her as a professor and also as someone I could go to with questions, issues, and when I needed help.
She went above and beyond in so many ways, and I am so grateful that she was around while I went through some pretty complicated and serious changes in my life
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Thank you to all of the professors who have impacted me over the years. I cannot express my gratitude enough to how you went above and beyond—not just for me, but for others as well. And those of you who are teachers now: you make a difference. Many of these students will later attribute so much to you. You have no idea the impact you can make.
To all the kickass teachers out there: thank you. Keep doing what you’re doing.