From outstanding student to outstanding teacher

By Lynn Moncus: QCS columnist

Although several of my former high school students have remained in touch through the years, very few college students have chosen to do so, probably because professors don’t have the opportunity to know their students, their parents, and their grandparents as well as do teachers in rural areas. In most cases, we met the college students two or three times a week during a semester and rarely saw them again unless they happened to take more than one class from us.

During the past week, one of my most outstanding students at NMSU called to do some visiting and reminiscing and really cheered up her old English Prof. The young lady, Dr. Jennifer Holberg, now an English professor herself, called from Grand Rapids, Michigan, in the midst of grading a set freshman composition papers to say that she had found last week’s column on the Internet and just had to let me know she still grades papers carefully, still enjoys teaching, and is fond of most of her students.

Listening to the excitement in her voice as she talked about her work let me know she is a real teacher and that she has some very fortunate students who will enjoy learning in spite of themselves. As she talked, I could almost see her in the classroom and hear the humor she uses as she delivers her lectures. Most students would become as excited as she while listening and would look forward to each of her classes. Such enthusiasm is contagious and just naturally challenges students to do their best in order to share that enthusiasm.

Because she was one of those very few students who needed little guidance and who was as eager to challenge me as I was to challenge her, we had great fun while I tried to keep up with her. She recalled the time she became more than a little excited because she received a 99 instead of a 100 on a paper. She knew I had stretched my thinking processes to find one tiny error on her paper and was not pleased with the results. I knew what she was thinking when she received that grade because her eyes told me clearly that she was a tad upset. I don’t think she even appreciated my smile at that point!

She graded papers for me on occasion and was even tougher that I at times.

She took that work very seriously and caused the students to wonder what had happened when she bled red all over their papers. She mentioned the incident of finding that one of my students had plagiarized his work and had made the mistake of copying some work she had done on a brochure. She didn’t exactly know what to do and asked for a little help. She said I told her I would take care of that problem, and neither of us thinks that student was quite so careless in the future.

Just hearing her voice and listening to her glowing reports about her work made me aware of how fortunate I was to have her as a student and now to have her as a friend. She was my shadow when I was moving out of my office and getting ready to move back to Tucumcari, making both of those tasks easier because of her presence and her ringing laughter.

Although I was eager to move home, I was having difficulty closing a major chapter in my life, and she stood by to give me the courage to face the future. Now, she is carrying on the tradition of teaching, and I feel sure she will come across a Jennifer or two during her career. I hope her students feel as fortunate to have her as their professor as I did to have her as a student.