Dear Professor M,
Congratulations. No one deserves tenure more than you do. I hope that you and your family love Alberta.
But it breaks my heart to see you go. You are, hands-down, the best teacher I have ever had, and I had counted on you to be there as I finished my degree. Please don’t misunderstand me—I don’t begrudge you this. I don’t have it in me to. I just wish I could tell you how much of an impact you’ve had on me, these last two years—but I don’t think I can look you in the eye and pour my heart out that way.
I’ve had far more bad instructors than good—in elementary school, high school, and even university. I have been treated with indifference, contempt, mockery, and scorn. I have been dismissed as unimportant, unintelligent, and unworthy of additional help. I have been deemed an annoyance, a discipline problem, and a pain in the ass to accommodate. I have been bullied by teachers, in front of a classroom full of my peers. But most often, I have been ignored.
But not by you. Never, ever by you.
You were the professor who taught me how to step up my academic writing. You encouraged me to think critically, and not to be afraid of finding, formulating, and defending unconventional opinions in my essays. You always had time to meet with me, and discuss material and essay topics, and anything else I was curious about or needed help with. You made me want to be at your lectures, even when I didn’t much care for the material we were covering that week. You opened discussion in classes, and never shut any of us down, or made us feel stupid, even if our answer wasn’t “right”. You never condescended, made me feel inferior, or looked at me as if you wanted me to just shut up, already.
Instead, you used pop culture references and swear words to make literary theory relatable. You engaged us in your lectures, and searched out our opinions, and bent over backwards to give us the time and space and help to not only do our best work, but also grow as academics. You allowed me to experience some real joy in being at university, something I’d only felt once before. You genuinely cared when I came back after falling so far behind when I was so ill. You were my professor, but you never distanced yourself from us—you were eminently human, with quirks and foibles and a sense of humour and personal anecdotes.
I’ve had a lot of professors since I hit university, but none like you. You, and one other, are the professors that I will still be talking about ten years from now. The ones that I will think about, the ones I feel I owe something to.
So know that I wish you the very best as you follow this opportunity. Thank you for everything you’ve done for me. Know that I will never forget you.
I hope you find happiness, and students worthy of you.
I think this goes without saying, but as we live in a world of rampant asshattery, please allow me to state for the record: this is my intellectual property. As such, please do not copy, circulate, edit, alter, take credit for, or otherwise appropriate this material without my express permission. Thank you.