By Billy Huntsman
I am taking Math Appreciation (and no, I don’t appreciate it). I do, however, really appreciate my professor—Alyne Fulte. You might know her. She’s a really small woman. As she describes herself, “Four-foot-six and a half and I’m proud of that half-inch.”
In class on Friday, in the lecture hall in Science Building (which is totally unsuited to teach math in, but that’s a different article), after passing back our homework and passing out the next worksheet, Fulte took a moment to address the class.
She told us of a recent tragedy in her family which had occurred in the last 24 hours. Though she did not elaborate as to the exact nature of the tragedy, it obviously was very personal, as she started choking up and may even have shed a tear, but I was too far in the back to see (you see how much I care about math).
Anyhow, even as she was choking up, she instructed us all to give ourselves a great big hug. As you might imagine, particularly from a class of mostly freshmen (I’m a senior, again you see how enthusiastic I am about taking math classes), there was much confusion and reluctance to follow Fulte’s orders.
Then, as it became apparent Fulte was not joking and indeed was very serious, some of the students did (I didn’t, because I’m too “cool” [overly self-conscious in public]), after which Fulte told us all how valuable we are. She emphasized it several more times, “You’re valuable, you’re valuable.” Then, before resuming lecturing and teaching, she blew us all a kiss.
What blew me away about this experience was how novel it was. As a tenured college student, I suppose I had become jaded (and still largely am) by prior experiences with professors. I had become used to them not caring to engage us too much, which they can’t be blamed for. In Math Appreciation alone, there are probably 100 students, multiplied by three or four sections, you and I both can imagine how impossible a task it is to become intimately acquainted with so many students.
But to see Fulte express such emotion to us broke through my hardened college epidermis. It’s made me believe that all professors aren’t detached from students. There are, in fact, professors who still give a shit about students on the human, rather than just the student, level.
And Fulte is one of them.
I suppose I wrote this to say thank you to her, and to all the other professors out there who still believe in the nobility of teaching personally, even when all the odds are set against you.