Sudents Speak: Lives Transformed by Teachers -
Paroles d'étudiants:
Des vies transformées par des enseignants


For twenty-five years, 3M Canada has sponsored the 3M National Teaching Fellowship, the foremost teaching award in Canada. This year, the Fellowship’s silver jubilee celebration is inspired by the theme – “Giving Back.” In this book, Fellows are giving back to 3M Canada and to their students inspiring evidence of the power of the 3M National Teaching Fellowship. The book reproduces the voices of students as they recall what it meant to be taught by a 3M Teaching Fellow.

Our newer partners, Studentawards Inc. and Maclean’s magazine, through their support and encouragement, have demonstrated their commitment to teaching excellence and to the original goals of the 3M Fellowship. Thank you, too.

The students who contributed to this book have written from every province in Canada, from abroad, and from a wide range of disciplines and professions. They want their identities and those of their professors to remain anonymous, as they do not envision the book as a collection of self-congratulatory tributes to individuals. Instead, they believe 3M Canada, Studentawards Inc., Maclean’s, and future students can be inspired by their stories of discovery, inspiration, and transformation. This book resonates with gratitude.

The Council of the 3M National Teaching Fellows
Ron Marken, Editor
1987 3M National Teaching Fellow
c. June 2010

The Words of the Students – Part B

After Professor X’s first session of his course, “The Operating Manager,” I left the room muttering, “Yes! Finally a course for Me!” That is what X’s curriculum is all about – you! Managing how you define tasks and organize your own operations; managing others in a professional and personal setting; managing bosses – Dr. X reminded us that a boss is anyone who has a degree of control over your evaluation; and, most importantly, managing yourself. Through these four modules, Professor X has taught me many key life lessons, both personal and professional. He also made it clear how correlated these two facets are.

He has an uncanny ability to hold you accountable for what you say in class discussion and what you write in your prescriptive personal policy statements. He makes you complete every plan and action so you can bring your healthy insights into fruition. He challenged and empowered us to do what we say.

He also makes his students set realistic yet optimistic perspectives. The course is all about us in junior management roles. I found it very useful that he would make us think of ourselves in a junior role, something that was hard for me to do with all of my aspirations for general management. Professor X prepared me for the reality of a junior role in a large organization, yet kept me optimistic that there is a direct correlation between hard work and advancement.

Professor X ended his course with a handout on managing self. He provided an overview of what it takes to be successful: he stressed respect, an attitude of gratitude, care for yourself and for others, consistency, and high personal expectations. X made it most clear that the buck stops at you; you are responsible. He empowered us to be concerned only with what we can have a degree of control over. This has definite relevance in your professional and personal life. If you cannot find a way to keep things fresh for yourself, make time for yourself and enjoy life, you will not succeed. You must first succeed personally if you truly want to succeed professionally.

Professor X, thank you for expressing the importance of true happiness and perspective. The lesson will stay with me forever.

~ Former student

Professor X really helped me to set the stage for my current career. I am forever grateful to her for all she taught me in a short time. I was an older than average student coming back to school for retraining in order to find employment more conducive to my disability. She helped me prepare to go back into the workforce.

I strongly believe Dr. X would help any student with anything she could. I am a walking example. Her patience never wore out with me; she taught me so much more than one would learn in a classroom.

Professor X is truly one of the best professors I worked with at university. She really cares about the students she works with, and their futures.

~ Advisor for Students with Disabilities

Thank you for the opportunity to speak once more the praises of my favourite professor in any discipline, Professor X. I was eighteen when I took his classes, and he was a new teacher in the English Department.

When the subject is literature, which invites sentimentality, it is hard to write without gushing. Professor X is simply the best teacher I had in seven years of university studies. And I had some very good teachers. Among the qualities he brought to his teaching were a fresh love of his subject, a visible delight in the spoken word, aided by a trained and excellent voice, and keen and clear analytical skills. His respect for students was expressed in direct and open engagement in and outside the classroom. For those days, this was both rare and seriously cool.

I am Professor of Law at the University of X and the author of books, chapters, articles, government reports, and the occasional op-ed piece. Some of my work is directly inspired by literary sources, like my piece for Gothic Studies on ethics, lawyer jokes, and the melancholy of law. In my first year of teaching, I proposed a course in

Law and Literature, which I have taught ever since. My legal ethics course requires students to write an essay analyzing the professional responsibility of a fictional lawyer behaving badly.

Professor X confirmed the place of literature in my intellectual firmament. He left no doubt in my mind that literature is a remarkable and essential lens for viewing the world in multiple ways and in its endless guises. Its role in my legal studies is now uncontroverted. The importance of approaching it on its own grounds, for its own merits, and not (just) for its utility, is a lesson well learned from Professor X.

~ Professor of Law

Dr. X has been and still is a mentor to me. As a former professor and now a colleague and friend, she has been highly influential in helping me shape my academic thoughts and professional career. She has a capability of boosting student confidence. She always spoke with me as an equal, giving credence to my input. Indeed, as our professions unfolded, I turned to her often for insight and opinion. She never turned me down.

~ Professor

I took Professor X’s class as an elective, but his passion for Sociology and teaching opened up a whole new way of seeing the world that allowed me to act from a wider perspective, which has made me a better parent, as well as an active community and global citizen.

~ Business Owner/Yoga teacher

I had the great pleasure of having Professor X as a teacher and mentor during my undergraduate education.

Maybe some of you have been told, as I had, to pick your classes based on the subject of course, but also based on the professor. This was the best advice I was ever given. A good professor can bring the subject to life, explore its relevance and ignite our critical engagement with the world around us through the lens of an academic discipline.

Dr. X found ways to break down the barriers between academia and the lived experiences of the marginalized. One of the ways he did this was through community service-learning. For two years, I tutored students who, for some reason, often addiction, dropout, or incarceration, had been out of school for over a year. Needless to say, these students’ experiences were much different from those of my friends and acquaintances at university. I gained a greater appreciation of the many challenges faced by young people in my own community, while providing academic assistance and mentorship and building relationships – not something you can learn out of a textbook or in a classroom.

~ Former student

Il m’a appris que pour donner un excellent cours, il faut non seulement maîtriser le sujet mais aussi montrer de la passion. Et si ca ne soffit pas, se présenter en classe avec une épée (une vraie!) comme baguette aide les étudiants à écouter!! Même si je me contente personnellement d’un pointeur laser, j’essaie de communiquer à mes étudiants le même enthousiasme pour la chimie.

Student’s translation:

I quickly learned from him that it is not sufficient to master a subject to teach a great class: a professor should also demonstrate passion. And for those who needed more to find motivation, seeing him in class with a (real!) sword as a pointer was certainly a good incentive to listen! While I personally limit myself to a laser pointer, I always try to communicate the same level of enthusiasm for chemistry to my students.

~ Professor

Entering university can be an overwhelming experience. Large class sizes, new faces, and independent learning styles can make any new student apprehensive. It is not every day that a student finds a professor who takes the time to get to know his students on a personal level. Aside from being an amazing teacher, Professor X always found a way to make all of his students feel as though their learning was his top priority. His classroom is a comfortable place where everyone is free to speak and offer suggestions for better learning. His willingness and ability to adapt his teaching style to meet the needs of all learners is something which inspired me to become a teacher myself.

My personal experience with Dr. X demonstrates just how selfless, caring, and influential a professor he truly is. After taking several of his classes, the opportunity came about to take a school trip to Spain. After some positive encouragement from my professor, the trip’s organizer, I ended up taking the trip, and having one of the best experiences of my life. Not only did Dr. X arrange the trip to Spain, but he also took the time out of his own life to make the journey himself with his students. During the seven week period abroad, he was always willing to help, be it as a tutor or a tour guide, going above and beyond in providing us with opportunities to experience the culture. He never failed to act as a positive mentor for me and my fellow travellers.

Professor X has always been the one professor I can turn to in times of need. When deciding to become a teacher myself, I immediately emailed X and asked him to be a referee. He promptly wrote a kind letter of reference which played a major role in my being accepted into the Education program. What made the kind gesture all the more valuable was the fact that he did this favour, not because he was obligated, but because he sincerely wants his students to succeed, even after they leave his classroom and move on in their careers.

~ Former student

I am more than happy to write this letter reflecting university life. Just recently I moved to Europe, and was given a friendly reminder of how far reaching the caring goes. After arriving to my new town of residence in Belgium, I began to have second thoughts and emailed Professor X in a panic, knowing how much experience she has had abroad. That same evening, after a year of no contact, she sent a warm and helpful email, calming my nerves, and further proving what a kind, selfless individual she really is. Any student would be lucky to have a professor like X, one who goes the extra mile to ensure her students succeed during their University careers and beyond!

~ Former student

Dr. X was one of the most inspirational professors I ever had. Her honesty was refreshing as we plunged into real Spanish culture. She challenged me to reach my full potential. Dr. X was my teacher for four different classes while I attended the University of X, and this was not at all by chance. When you were in Dr. X’s class you not only learned, you thrived.

~ Former student

When I began university, I was certain that what I wanted to study was French, the language, the culture, and so on. However, after my first two weeks in Dr. X’s class I found that it was no longer my French classes that called to me, but her English literature classes. It was obvious from her lectures and class presentations that she found her subjects captivating, and through her enthusiasm for the material she in turn captivated the class. This is no doubt because Dr. X would try to spark our interests in whatever manner she could. Whether it was through her dynamic class presentations, her one-on-one meetings, or her carefully chosen questions, her goal was not simply for our class to understand the material, but to actively engage with it.

And, to her credit, I did.

~ Law student

I was an undergraduate in a class that Dr. X taught in the early 1970s. In later years I became a full-time writer and editor — I’ve had three collections of poetry published, as well as several works of non-fiction and two books for children. So what I learned in X’s class had a direct impact on my later career.

I recall how he managed to educate and occasionally inspire the whole class, not just those few of us with a quasi-professional interest in the subject matter. He cared about the books he was teaching, but he also cared about his students. Being a poet himself, he was willing to enrich his teaching by bringing his own experiences into the classroom. And his teaching wasn’t just about literature – for some reason, roughly 35 years after the class in question, I remember how cogently he explained the importance of the bass line in jazz and rock music. He was both knowledgeable and enthusiastic, and he never resorted to cynicism (the bane of so many English professors).

There was a genuine modesty in his teaching. He never pretended that he alone had the answers to the mysteries of the works we read. He was not afraid to admit that, occasionally, the meaning of particular lines or passages eluded him. But he was such a good teacher that this kind of admission, which could have been devastating for other teachers, only made his students think more highly of him. He conveyed a marvelous sense that in the face of great literature, we readers are in it together. So the classroom became a place of sharing, not showing off.

The success and, more important, the well-being of his students and former students mattered to him. Through his unselfish example, I was able to glimpse the ancient ideal of a university: that it should be a community of learning, not a stepping-stone to individual wealth and fame.

~ Rhodes Scholar;
Poet, Author, Journalist,
Research Editor

While possessing incredible abilities to teach one about the intricacies of science and medicine, I believe that Professor X’s greatest attribute is instilling his infectious passion for learning in his students.

It would not be rare to find Dr. X at the university at 4 am, as a brilliant idea had popped into his head or he couldn’t sleep because he had things he wanted to accomplish for his students. Perhaps enlightenment that can only be attained at this hour accounts for his brilliant ability to develop innovative medical research.

~ Equine Surgery Resident

I was a student of Dr. X in the winter 1999 semester, enrolled in two 4th-year courses that semester. One was unique: a placement at the Centre for Students with Disabilities as a senior peer helper. Basically I was to hand in a 20-page research paper on a topic Professor X and I agreed upon, along with working at the centre 15 hrs per week. This was such a successful experience the Centre hired me after that course and I am still here over 10 years later, an advisor for students with disabilities. She really helped me to set the stage for my career. I am forever grateful to her for all she taught me in a short time.

The other 4th year course prepared students to enter the workforce. The combination of these two courses was most helpful, practical, and such an enjoyable experience. You see, I was an older than average student, coming back to school for retraining in order to find employment more conducive to my disability. Dr. X helped me to prepare to go back into the workforce.

I strongly believe Dr. X would help any student with anything she could. I am a walking example of this. Her patience never wore out with me; she taught me so much more than one would learn in a classroom. The class portion was very helpful as well, but other experiences she facilitated really hit home with me. I have the utmost respect and regard for Professor X, as a colleague, mentor and a friend.

~ PhD. Student Educational Developer Teaching Support Services

Professor X was my teacher for Psychology. My first indication that I had an excellent professor here, was that he could not find an appropriate textbook, so he wrote his own! Along with his text, we also got a set of class notes that we filled in during lectures, and most importantly, a little handbook that he wrote for us with all of the formulas we would need in it. He included the “situation” and the “goal” for using each formula, and described each component of the formula. In addition, he taught us the value of being able to calculate and interpret statistics by using real-life concrete examples. For example, he taught us Percentile Rank by teaching us how we could figure out where our score sat in relation to the rest of the class on tests.

Dr. X was so excited about teaching and research, that I caught the bug! I went down after class one day and asked him how I could get involved in research. He told me there were lots of opportunities, and then asked me for a resume. I gave him my resume the next class, and soon after ended up being his research assistant on a two-year project, the results of which were just published in a scholarly journal – and, yes, my name is included on the publication!

From then on, I have been so happy to say that X has been my mentor. Under his guidance, I completed my Honours thesis. Because of his encouragement, I am now taking my M.Ed. This is quite a change from the student who entered university at 32 years old, scared to death, and not knowing whether she could actually complete an undergraduate university course successfully!

I now TA the statistics course for him, and love every minute of it. I am so glad I didn’t let my fear rule me and stop me from entering university. I would have missed what I consider to be one of the best experiences of my life – an experience integral to making me who I am today.

~ Student Facilitator Department of Child and Youth Studies

When working with Dr. X, you soon learn that her passion and commitment to teaching and advancing knowledge is not just focused on the classroom or traditional modes of application. She takes a keen interest in your overall development and supports you in your personal and intellectual journey inside and outside of the classroom. Dr. X encouraged me to focus on making a constructive contribution in everything I did, from academics to student politics to volunteerism. She always pushed me to address real world problems through actually experiencing them and dared me to use that knowledge to make a difference. The wonderful thing about her is that she will always continue to be my teacher and mentor.

~ Lecturer Department of International Relations