The value of getting to know those who teach us...

By Adela Penagos, PhD, President

I have been fortunate to be at various universities, as a teacher, an administrator, and a student.  I often heard the following concern from the faculty: “students do not come to my office hours.”  Analogously, students voiced their concern: “office hours at 8am are a way to keep us away from seeing our faculty.”  While both groups have a point, I want to encourage you to get to know those who teach you regardless of the effort you might need to put into the relationship, even if it means getting up bright and early.  You will be surprised by the long lasting relationships resulting from your investment.  Like any other relationship in life, it takes commitment and work to develop a relationship with a teacher or a professor.  Nonetheless, it is worth it. 

Several weeks ago, I was able to experience the benefits of such a relationship from the teacher’s point of view.  One of my former students and I had lunch at South Station in Boston, as he was heading to do research for an article and a book in western Massachusetts.  When I taught him Spanish Conversation and Writing, as a freshman, he never ceased to amaze me with his critical thinking, analytical, and creative skills.  He was the best student in the class, yet he was always humble and kind.  At the end of his senior year, he was one of the 11 students considered to deliver the valedictory speech for his class and I had the honor of writing him a letter of recommendation, something I have always cherished.  Writing a letter of recommendation for an excellent student, when the writer knows the student well, is one of the most rewarding experiences of teaching.  One is able to clearly establish a picture of the candidate and help others get to know him/her with ease and precision.  Additionally, one is able to set the candidate apart from all others.

At the time, I did not know that eventually, my former student and I would be discussing lesson plans, job searches, interviewing techniques, and personal and professional paths in Boston during the summer of 2014.  This student has taught me a lot throughout the years, particularly that the caring friendships we form with our students can be ever lasting.  Get to know one of your teachers soon, you never know where life will take you and how much you will learn from one another, not to mention that you could potentially get a very strong letter of recommendation from this person and this letter can open up doors for you now and in the future.