May 2011, San Diego County (written by an A student, the very best student in my class):
A couple of weeks ago, I was notified that I've won the "Medal of Honor" award at my community college. In the questionnaire given to each recipient, one of the questions is: "What have you enjoyed most about attending your College?" Here's what I answered with:
Nearly every instructor I've had has shown an outright passion for the subject they teach, and for the success of their students. Being able to approach a professor after class and discuss a topic related to their lectures has been invaluable to me for improving my understanding, and has also helped to develop my interests in a wide variety of fields. When a professor is both extremely knowledgeable and genuinely enthusiastic about what they are teaching, it's just so much easier to remain interested in the class over the course of the entire semester. Before I went to a Community College, I had no idea that a class could actually be the thing that I most look forward to in a typical week -- and it's the personality of the instructors that makes it possible. It would really be hard not to look forward to every class when you have an instructor like Daniele A. for French. The amount of energy she brings to her job every single day is frankly amazing. I can't remember even a single time our French class has met this semester without the entire class at some point bursting into a fit of laughter. Of course, being energetic or teaching with some comedy are neither necessities nor indicators of excellence. Depth of knowledge and dedication to the success of her students is what makes the teaching faculty great at some schools.
I meant that with the utmost sincerity, and so I thought that you should know how very much I appreciate having you as a teacher! I actually enrolled in this class simply because I needed a foreign language class to finish my GE requirements for transferring, but I am very glad I ended up in your class. It just makes a world of difference to have someone like you as an instructor. I mean, biology is my main focus as far as what I'm going to major in and the careers I'm looking to get into, but I'm enjoying my French class far more than biology this semester. It's not that my biology teacher is particularly bad, but his lectures are just a bit dull. Information that is interesting to me is being taught to me in a somewhat dull and monotonous way, and the result is that the class is tolerable. By contrast, the highlight of each week for me is on Monday and Wednesday between 4:00pm and 6:15pm -- no exaggeration. When you compare a class that is just tolerable and a class that is genuinely fun, it takes a lot more determination and willpower to complete coursework and study for exams for the tolerable class than it does for the fun one. I think that leads to an increased sense of conflict, which causes students to feel like they are struggling against the burden of their classes, instead of being excited at the thought of being able to participate in them and obtain an education. For the ambitious students who are completely dedicated to their educational goals, instructors like you make getting an education all the more rewarding, and at the same time, the type of learning environment that you create allows less-motivated individuals to more easily develop an interest in the concept of pursuing an education. Truly spectacular professors such as yourself should receive greater recognition than they do, because it is absolutely deserved, and it would be a crime for you to not be aware of how much you are appreciated. So a massive "thank-you", "good job", and "congratulations on being awesome" to you!
(Please don't think that I mean to flatter you with any of this. Excellent performance merits recognition, and you deserve to know that you're very much appreciated. The college is giving me a medal in order to honor my academic achievements. While I can't award you with a medal, I can at least tell you how much it means to me to have a great teacher!)