I have hated my fair share of classes throughout my life, college being no exception. One thing I can never say, though, is that I’ve ever hated a professor at WSU. Whether their class was my cup of tea or not, all of my professors brought something uniquely enjoyable to their work.
While the transition to online learning was stressful for some students, I am sure professors faced many of their own problems both work-related and otherwise. After all last year threw at us, I can’t think of a better time to recognize the hard work our professors have done.
“Good professors are empathetic to the plight of their students, and [are] willing to help and accommodate them; but great professors do that AND set clear boundaries so they are not trampled upon, and encourage students to grow past hardship,” Alexander Jensen, senior psychology and English double major, wrote in an email.
Empathy is necessary for learning, but professors cannot be expected to accommodate everything that comes up, Jensen wrote. Professors would end up exhausted and students may take advantage of their kindness.
Jensen was involved in gathering appreciative comments from his classmates at the end of last semester to thank teaching assistant professor, Lauren Westerfield for her efforts in the Editing and Publishing course she teaches.
“Lauren was real. She didn’t mince words, she didn’t lecture heavily; she asked what we thought and encouraged that kind of group discussion, as well as making cohorts that fostered connection with both us and her,” Jensen wrote.
Among some professors, Jensen deeply appreciates his adviser and professor, Carrie Cuttler, for encouraging his growth as a student. He wrote that Cuttler is always patient and understanding with him, but helps him to avoid becoming complacent or absorbed in his troubles.
Jensen recognizes Lydia Gerber, clinical associate professor of History, Marian Sciachitano, clinical associate professor of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Leeann Hunter, associate professor of English, and Westerfield as masters of fostering classroom connections.
Jensen wrote that Charles Weller, associate professor of history, Linda Heidenreich-Zuñiga, associate professor for history and Linda Russo, clinical associate professor of English are excellent examples of professors that inspire greatness and help students stop limiting their potential.
“The best traits a professor can have are to be organized and thoughtful about their course, excited about what they are teaching, and empathic of their students and where their students are at,” Sophie Shugarts, senior psychology and English double major, wrote in an email.
These traits are important to her because structure is important, Shugarts wrote. She wants to understand where the course is headed, and an excited professor makes the class more exciting.
Respect, however, is most important as Shugarts wrote about how she really appreciates when professors are willing to meet students where they’re at.
Shugarts has taken courses with Robert Eddy, associate professor of English, who she recognizes as a strong professor because Eddy sees students as intellectuals and engages in mutual discussion with them. He demands change and helps students become better people as well as scholars, she wrote.
The fact Eddy remembers little details about his students also makes it feel like you are worthy to make meaningful contributions in the classroom, Shugarts wrote.
She specifically appreciates when professors are willing to meet with her one on one regardless of the topic, as those connections make college feel worthwhile.
In appreciation of all professors, Shugarts wrote:
“I think professors are so much more powerful and important than some may think; they can make or break a class experience. A good experience comes from a professor who enjoys what they are doing, teaches with structure and style, and creates an open environment that welcomes discussion and familiarity. I’m lucky to have had a lot of really good experiences at WSU.”
As a message to professors, Jensen wrote:
“Dear Professors: I feel as if the student population does not fully grasp the weight of the time you put into academia. I feel we often write it off as part of the job, but that is not the case. You make tremendous sacrifices to help people who, often, you barely know to succeed, and that is amazing. But, please, take care of yourself. The army that fights under a tired commander will perform only as good as their leader is. Protect your time. We can wait.”
I have had my own amazing experiences with professors. Both of my Japanese professors have been a joy to work with. They keep their students engaged and try to make learning a foreign language a little less daunting.
When I took Shawna Herzog’s class on Southeast Asian history, she taught with such enthusiasm that she made me realize what kind of energy I want to bring to my own work. I saw her and decided that I want to find something I could be that excited to talk about.
There is no way we could mention every excellent professor at WSU in one column. I could barely begin to express my appreciation for just the professors I have had. Whether their name has appeared in this column or not, if you have a professor who has done or is doing great work, please take a minute to thank them.