YPSILANTI—One hundred and forty four instructors at Eastern Michigan University received 184 nominations from students in appreciation of their academic efforts during the Thank-A-Teacher celebration on Friday, April 21.
The celebration, which is sponsored by the Faculty Development Center with additional support from the Provost’s Office, was created as a way for students to recognize teachers who have made significant contributions to their education. Students filled out online nomination forms that were sent to the FDC for inclusion in a formal recognition letter addressed to the nominee.
Amy Flanagan Johnson, a chemistry professor, and Katherine Ryker, an earth science assistant professor at EMU, organized the event.
“What made me emotional reading the nomination letters was how many students described situations where a teacher had restored their sense of self, or helped them develop an identity as a scholar or future teacher,” Ryker said. “These are the kinds of interactions that go on day in and day out at Eastern without a lot of fuss. It's what makes us [EMU] such a great place for students.”
The term “teacher” is used as inclusively as possible to include mentors, teaching assistants, advisors, success coaches, student programming staff and other individuals at the University. Johnson described this program as “a way to formally acknowledge positive impacts and to nurture a culture of gratitude on campus.”
Nomination breakdown by the nominee’s role at EMU includes:
-53 percent faculty;
-39 percent part time or full time lecturers;
-3 percent academic support or student affairs;
-2 percent graduate students;
-1 percent undergraduate students;
-And 1.6 percent other.
Many students thanked teachers in their nomination forms for helping them grow as individuals and for supporting them in any way possible. They also wrote that their teachers were influential in their lives, serving as mentors that they admired and as trusted friends that they could turn to in times of need.
Sara Williams, part-time lecturer in the creative writing department at EMU, said that the student who wrote her nomination letter, Andrea Plummer, was someone that she had admired because Plummer was employed full-time and raising a child while attending EMU.
Plummer filled out the nomination a year after she had Williams as a professor for her coursework. In her letter, Plummer wrote that Williams is a person who exemplifies quality in teaching and truly cares about the success of her students.
“The thing that matters is the students and helping them with not just the coursework, but with seeing how that coursework is going to lead them to having better lives and being happier humans,” Williams said. “It’s not just helping with the negative experiences; it’s also helping with the positive experiences with students and knowing the work that you put in is meaningful.”
Peggy Liggit, director of the Faculty Development Center, said that reading the letters written by students and seeing how touched the faculty, staff and administrators were at receiving them at the event was “priceless.”
While this is the first year for the Thank-A-Teacher program, the FDC and Provost’s Office plan to institutionalize it as an annual event. Students, including former students, can submit nomination forms at any time. Teachers nominated in the upcoming year will be recognized in April 2018.
About Eastern Michigan University
Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest university in Michigan. It currently serves 22,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors and concentrations are delivered through the University's Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Health and Human Services; Technology, and its graduate school. EMU is regularly recognized by national publications for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University's website.