The greatness of teaching is that if you’re good, you’ll enjoy a career educating the masses and informing students in whatever subject you teach. If you’re great – they’ll remember you fondly. Your lessons both practical and academic will endure as they are passed on to their kids or even students, should they chose to teach. It is no secret that we all have had our favorite teachers, professors and educators over the years. We can all recall at least one that had a noticeable impact on our lives. I have many and I’ve decided to write about them and why they had such a marked impact upon me. It was spurred by the news that Dr. Elsie Haley, Professor of English had retired. When I started back into school at Metropolitan State University of Denver in January of 2014, I signed up for one class. I was in the midst of working as a shift supervisor at Starbucks and had decided it was time to get my first degree after taking over ten years off. My first class was American Literature: Civil War to Present. And my professor was Dr. Haley.
Dr. Haley is no nonsense. It was one of the qualities I appreciate in a professor. She was an adult. She viewed us as adults. And she wasn’t going to treat us otherwise. Her expectations were simple – do the work, show up for class and go from there. Her syllabus had our reading schedule, our assignments and the details on what she wanted. What was fascinating to observe was students trying to go up against her with trivial concerns or excuses. I knew they had no chance. I knew of her legacy from fellow students and even RateMyProfessor.com. She was old school. She expected you to work hard and to know the material. There was more than one time where I failed to read the readings and her free writing assignment at the next class was painful for me – but that was on me. I appreciated her tenacity. It forced me to be a better student. Today, I even have echoes of those moments of deciding whether or not to do my reading. And 95% of the time – due to Dr. Haley’s insistence on us having familiarity with the material – I do my reading. 5% of the time, I’m a unapologetic slacker. I’m working on lowering that percentage as my semesters trudge onward.
I think that after I finished Dr. Haley’s class with a B that I realized that if I could pass the class of a professor who’s ratings on RMP speak of doom, gloom and terror – I could do anything. Having survived her determination, I decided that I did indeed want more of this thing called school and further – teaching. When I think of the kind of teacher I will be, I always reflect on the professors I’ve experienced in classes since I came back to Metro. Haley still sticks in my considerations as someone who inspired me to get into the material and wrap my arms around it and not just show up and pass.
In the anthology of educators I respect and honor, Dr. Haley is one of the top.
In an interesting footnote, I ran into her a few semesters ago. I had decided to move away from elementary education and into secondary education. I desperately needed a signature for my Major change documentation. Lo and behold, Dr. Elsie Haley was one who could sign off on it. The thing that effected me the most at the time was not that I got her signature – but that she remembered me. It was a moment that I won’t forget – and will strive to emulate. It’s also a bit of a fun thing to say that Dr. Haley’s signature played a part in my realizing my future career in secondary education as an English teacher.
And who knows? One of these days I might give graduate school a whirl. Then maybe knock out a PhD and transition to college professor. All because of one class with a tenacious and passionate professor. That’s something.