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19 times we were grateful for teachers

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Quizlet is proud to partner with real students and recent graduates to showcase authentic voices on our blog. This guest post is by Nicolette Kier, who just graduated from the University of Pittsburgh.

Around the Thanksgiving dinner table (or any table, really) generations of learners will swap stories about student-teacher interactions so viscerally bad they can describe them perfectly to this day. Note the haunted look in your father's eyes as he talks about his English teacher who made him recite Shakespeare despite his stage fright, or that wry grin on your sibling's face as they say: “I passed calculus, despite having that teacher.”

And I’ve had my fair share of rough experiences: from my computational physics professor who wanted our coded programs in print on his desk every Friday morning (despite obviously being able to access them online), to a certain senior seminar professor who refused to make a course web page and insisted on distributing hundreds of printed pages every week.

But I’ve found that teachers on the whole range from decent to excellent, and here are 19 instances proving that.

1. To my Far East Lit professor: Thank you for understanding how long three hours on a Monday night really is. You are, in many ways, woke.

We students always complain about class times, class lengths, and classrooms, as if you teachers aren’t aware of it.

My Far East literature class was a night class, for three hours, on a Monday night. It was in the spring semester (which, in Pittsburgh, means it’s the dead of winter and dark by 5:30). And the teacher was just as exhausted as we were at 6 p.m.

In light of this, the professor structured the class—which, 50% of the time, was reading about aliens as historical and cultural metaphors—according to our energy levels. We got a break when it was obvious we needed it. We covered the more intense subject matter at the beginning of class, and collaborated in groups in the second half.

To that teacher, I say thank you for recognizing how hard three-hour classes, especially at night, can be, and structuring classes to make them easier to manage.

2. To my Physics 1 professor: I very much appreciated when you blew into the classroom on a rocket car to teach us about momentum.

Honors Physics 1 was crazy enough. And then you went and added a rocket car.

Dr. Kosowsky: You are one of the best, most hands-on, most youthful professors I’ve ever had. Keep making physics fun for generations of students to come.

3. To my freshman composition professor: Thank you for answering my rambling 4 a.m. email with great life advice. You literally got me to this point, right now, in which I'm writing this post.

first-year-of-college-vs-last-year-meme.jpgYou got me from the beginning to the end, sir. (Image courtesy of YourTango.)

Students: You know those moments when you doubt your choices of courses, majors, abilities, etc.? Most of us have had that experience—and know it’s intense. At 4 a.m., it can feel crushingly overwhelming.

The level of indecision and insecurity at those times is a little rattling.

I am forever grateful to my freshman composition professor for guiding me at the end of my first semester, pulling me out of indecision and telling me that writing is an option, a good one for me.

Thank you also for the guidance and reassurance throughout my four years. Thank you for reading my writing, for giving me real feedback, for being there for me.

It’s because of you, and teachers like you, that I am writing this article right now.

4. To one of my first dance teachers: Your beginner adult class has always appreciated your hype speeches. You are a breath of fresh air in an otherwise damp, sweat-filled room.

The ability to make everyone feel welcome and capable is the mark of a teacher who promotes a healthy learning environment.

You made everyone, from longtime dancers to first timers trying out dancing as a form of cardio, feel welcomed in your class.

5. My electronics lab partner and I probably wouldn't be here today without the lab director. Our fingers and our grades are intact, and we're both pretty happy about that.

You know that phrase, “If it doesn’t work, just call Dad?”

Our breadboards often did not work—at all. The lab director essentially became our lab dad. My partner and I (and all our fingers) are forever grateful to him for saving us from ourselves, and our poorly crossed wires.

Thank you for also saving our grades with your master-level concept explanations.

6. To my high school ceramics teacher: You are the G.O.A.T. for letting me eat lunch (and make art) in your classroom.

chill-art-teacher.jpgMy art teacher didn’t look like this. But he had this kind of energy. (Image courtesy of KSAT.)

As any student (and any teacher) can attest to, there are two kinds of students: the kids who like the lunchroom, and the kids who try to avoid it.

I was of the later sort. Lunchrooms were crowded and loud, and I don’t do well with either of those circumstances.

I am, however, an artist. This was why my art teacher, who is the absolute G.O.A.T., would let me hang out and work on projects in his classroom during my lunch period. (G.O.A.T. stands for Greatest Of All Time. It’s some newfangled slang the kids are using these days.)

I did get permission from him to come up, and cleared it with the lunch staff. So to anyone who’s looking to skip the lunchroom (in the post-COVID era), you have to get permission first.

7. To my little sister’s social studies teacher: I will be forever grateful that you encouraged her so much. It's part of the reason she's the little activist she is now (at age 10).

My sister walked into the classroom a child with big dreams of helping others.

Instead of steering her away from her passions and expecting her to focus solely on classwork, her teacher encouraged her to act on them. That teacher is a huge part of the reason she’s so up-to-date on current events, and why she’s walking for her charity of choice this year (at a social distance, of course).

She’s 10, and already understands that she has a voice.

Thank you for that.

8. To my other little sister's algebra teacher: Thanks for taking it so well when she told you that you look just like John Cena.

john-cena-meme.pngWhat a solid meme. (Image courtesy of Know Your Meme.)

Seriously, I wish I had a picture of this guy (and his consent to post it, of course). He’s a dead ringer for John Cena. And my sister, a newly minted teenager, isn’t great at keeping observations like that to herself.

But he took it well, so well that he started saying, “You can’t see me,” when referring to unknown variables in class.

He really is a bro.

9. To my Intro to Social Work professor: Thank you so much for being so understanding about my health situation while I was in your class.

A great deal of college students either enter or develop health conditions during their time in school. I was one of them, and during one semester, I was working on managing my medications.

I had registered for accommodations at our school’s disability office, but at that point was still nervous about the potential stigma involved with disclosing my disability to professors.

During this semester, I was getting used to some new medication, and getting to class was difficult. My Intro to Social Work professor was completely and totally understanding, and willing to do whatever it took to make sure I was getting the information I needed to do well. She was a practicing social worker for years, so she was already well versed in having open and honest conversations about health.

So, to my social work professor: You are so kind, and your class was so interesting, that I am actually considering going to graduate school for social work.

I really hope she reads this at some point.

10. Thank you to every math teacher I've ever had who's admitted to their terrible handwriting. We know how bad it is, but we're glad you said it first.

bad-handwriting-because-you-think-faster.pngThis explains everything. (Image courtesy of ThumbPress.)

If there’s any subject you want really clean, clear handwriting for, it’s math—especially higher level math. As someone who studied physics in college, and someone with extremely poor eyesight, I can attest to this.

Some instructors have very bad handwriting in general, and students would constantly have to ask what the board says.

But the ones who take this in stride, and admit to their bad handwriting (maybe even bashfully) are the real ones.

Admitting to bad handwriting is, as studies claim, essentially admitting that your brain works faster than your hands. So I can’t imagine my Calc 3 professor took it too hard to be constantly reminded of the mystery that was the blackboard. (The meaning within the lecture notes was another mystery in itself.)

11. To my Cybercultures in the Modern Era professor who let me write my final paper on memes in the COVID-19 era: You're a legend. And so was my paper.

memes-in-final-essay.pngIt has citations and everything. (Image courtesy of me.)

It’s been a rough few months trying to transition to remote school while navigating the COVID-19 crisis. My Cybercultures professor is an amazing individual who, in light of our hardships, let me write about the one and only thing I’m passionate about: memes.

Dr. Lukas: Please continue teaching your classes in the same way you always have: with grace, humor, and wit.

12. I will never forget the time my French teacher would not stand for discriminatory slurs. She was a gem, a powerful socially conscious gem.

Instances of name-calling in general are, I imagine, difficult for instructors to handle within the classroom. Witnessing discriminatory slurs being thrown at students has got to be on another level, I imagine.

When it happened in my high school French class, my teacher was not having it.

She never, ever spoke English in the classroom. But when this happened, she stared, stunned, at the student using absolutely unacceptable language—and then, in English, proceeded to lecture about the effects of discriminatory language for the rest of the class.

I will never forget that.

13. To my Intro to Creative Writing professor: Thanks for emailing me back about questions, and just checking up on me, after the class was over.

Thanking teacher.jpgThis is what she said when I thanked her in person. (Image courtesy of Meme Generator.)

So many teachers and professors say: “You can always email me, or come by my office, after the semester is over.”

And I know they mean it. I also know that not many students take them up on it.

Well, I did with a creative writing professor, and at least once a semester we check in on each other. Sometimes I sporadically send her some writing I’m working on, and she always gives me feedback. She always answered my questions about life post-graduation, and now that I’ve settled into it (well, as settled as one can be right now) we just talk about life.

It’s nice to have someone looking out for you like that.

14. My high school physics teacher will go down in history as the guy who played the entirety of Despicable Me just for a single, semi-relevant line.

Teacher classroom quote.png(Image courtesy of QuotesGram.)

It was well worth it.

15. This man also had us watch the winter Olympics to “learn about friction.” I suspect he also knew we were burnt out and it was three days before winter break.

physics problems meme.jpgAll memes are accurate in some way, but this one especially rings true. (Image courtesy of MEME.)

“Enjoy frictionless surfaces now, because it only gets harder from here.” - Mr. Laurenson, AP Physics 1

16. Thanks to every music teacher who has ever said: “You don’t have to dress up for the school concert.”

Every kid in my family went to the same elementary school. We all went through the school concert experience, and there was always some theme, or dress code, or prop we were supposed to show up with.

And we always forgot about it.

Finally, at long last, the new chorus and band teacher both agreed that the dress code was stressful on some. My two youngest siblings reaped the benefits from this, one dressing very elaborately for a first-grader, and the other standing on stage in the standard t-shirt and jeans.

So thank you to every music teacher who has decided to let go of a dress code.

17. To my Senior Seminar in Fiction professor: Your syllabus is the best thing ever.

syllabus-meme.jpgTeachers: Is this true? (Image courtesy of Reddit.)

Shannon: The fact that you spend the first half page of your syllabus stressing the fact that your name is Shannon, not Sharon is just delightful. I took three of your classes and it was faithfully there, every time.

The rest of the syllabus had the same energy, which made “syllabus week” that much more tolerable.

18. To my Persuasive Writing in Advertising professor: Thank you for making us pitch Kranch (yes, Heinz ketchup and ranch mixed together and sold in one bottle) as a "good idea."

I can’t think of anything harder to pitch than Kranch, so marketing agencies — you know where I am.

Morgan, thanks for making us think creatively in the weirdest way ever.

19. She’s not technically a teacher, but Trish at my school’s financial aid department was (is) my financial guru, and deserves to be showered with good karma.

The financial aid department is not a place you necessarily ever want to be at. A lot of the time, you’re there because there’s a problem with your account, and it is honestly a little bit terrifying. Every financial aid counselor has a tissue box on their desk. I rest my case.

But Trish made me feel (and still makes me feel) able to handle arguably the most difficult subject there is to learn: money. Specifically, she helped me understand how student loans work, the best ways to repay them, and how to successfully land jobs after graduation.

I’m not feeling perfectly confident about my financial future, but at this point, who is?

Teachers: We might not say it as often as we should, but your students do think you’re chill, for the most part.

You’ve been especially great throughout the whole of 2020, which is a feat within itself.

And to all the teachers out there who don’t make their students do work before holiday breaks—you’re the real ones.


Nicolette Kier just made it to the other side of a degree in physics and writing from the University of Pittsburgh. She reaped the usual rewards of college: knowledge, a job, and debt. She thinks it was worth it.

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