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(Christian Aviles)– Writing this appreciation post is both very easy and very difficult. Easy because I love so many things about Amherst Professors, and no amount of words could ever describe just how much I appreciate everything they do for students on campus. It’s difficult because it reminds me that at the end of every class, I’m one step closer to graduation. To think that I’ll never have the opportunity to take another class with these wonderful professors. To think that I’ll never be able to put in another TYPO request so that I could take a professor out to dinner. To think that I’ll never be able to drop by a professor’s office hours anytime during the week and talk to them for hours about my joke of a life (my professors and I jokingly call these my weekly therapy sessions). Long sigh. It’s all coming to an end. As I look back at my Amherst experience and think about all the great things this place has to offer, I can say with absolute certainty that the faculty at Amherst is the best part about this college.
Whenever I’ve struggled with anything, be it academic or personal, my professors have always been there. Whenever I felt like I needed a few days to catch up with all my work, my professors were there to support me. When I couldn’t meet with a professor during office hours or anytime during the day, that professor drove to Amherst at 9:30pm to meet me in Frost. When I had to stay here over Winter Break (before Interterm started) my first year, all alone on campus, my professor invited me over to her house. When I showed up to my first class, Anthropology 112, I saw the long list of books on the syllabus and knew it was going to be hella expensive. Maybe I should drop this, I thought. My professor must have read my thoughts because the following class, she gave me a bag with all 15 books in it, saying that she just had these extra ones “somewhere around her house.” When a professor close to my heart abruptly left the college in the fall of 2012, I was interviewed by The Amherst Student and I basically talked about how devastated I was about that experience. The next day, I received about 65 emails from professors—most of whom I had never met!—who expressed that they were here to support me and that if I ever needed someone to talk to, they were here for me.
And the classroom experience! Oh my, how I’ve enjoyed the classes I’ve taken! That’s because the professors at Amherst are not just great scholars, they’re also phenomenal teachers. All of my professors have taught in such a way that I walk out of every class with a greater understanding of our world. I can’t really explain the magic that happens in the classroom. The way professors carry themselves in the classroom is so amazing and to this day, I’m still in awe of their talents. And when I’m confused and have to ask a question, they’re not condescending or patronizing. They’re genuinely interested in helping me understand something, and they give me room to try to figure it out on my own. And I absolutely admire how passionate they are about the subjects they’re teaching! That passion really does radiate throughout the semester, and it certainly makes it easier for me to be more engaged with the material. As someone who wants to be a teacher, I haven’t just learned about the academic subjects these professors are teaching. I’ve learned about how to be an effective teacher and what pedagogical practices are needed to make the classroom a great learning space. Those lessons are ones that I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life.
The other day, I was in Professor Frank’s Queer Historical Novel course, a subject I was never interested in—the only reason I took the class was because I wanted to continue working with Professor Frank. Now, I’m super engaged with the material and it’s one of my favorite classes at Amherst. All because of Professor Frank. In this class, we arrange our desks in a circle, and I always sit next to Professor Frank. She asked us to follow along as she was going to read a specific passage in a novel we were reading. By the time we finished reading the passage, I legitimately wanted to cry. You should all visit and/or take Professor Frank’s class. Whenever she reads a passage, a nice, warm feeling takes over the classroom. Everyone is looking down at their book following the passage, the sound of Professor Frank’s voice ringing in their ears. In those moments, nothing else seems important. All that you’re thinking about is how peaceful you feel, and you’re desperately trying to stay in that trance-like state forever. In those moments, I feel as if we’ve just left Amherst College and are suddenly right in the narrator’s world. I (almost) teared up because—at the time of this writing—there are less than 12 sessions of this class to go. After that, I can forget about ever experiencing that level of peace in a classroom. Longer sigh.
As I’m enjoying my last few weeks of class, I think about Professor Frank’s readings. I think about how Professor Grobe is so theatrical and his classes are basically theatre performances. I think about how Professor Parham would always find the absolutely best way to phrase something and make the entire class nod because we were learning together. I think about Professor Holleman and how helpful and nice she has been to me during my thesis process. I think about Professor Gewertz and how her animated lectures during my first semester here reassured me that I picked the right college. I think about all this and more as we get closer to the finish line.
At the end of every campus tour, parents and students ask me what I most love about Amherst. I smile, hold back a few tears, and share with them all of these wonderful memories.