Throughout my life, I have had a few teachers that made a lasting impression on me but none can compare to one. Dr. Maclean Gander is the ultimate exemplification of what it means to be a teacher. He made me believe in my capacity to write after years of struggling with it in college. In his English class, one of his opening quotes is “Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.” He immediately dispelled the popular myth of the genius that writes perfect prose in single sittings. He guided each of us to discover our individual process by teaching the connection of cognition and writing.
He also created a setting of engaging learning with his exploratory teaching style. His classes are one part teaching, two parts student contribution--each equally essential in his classroom. Being a young woman of African American descent in a sea of men, I have sometimes felt my words are not valued in discussion. It breeds a sense of otherness and in turn can create a feeling of inferiority. Dr. Gander has the unique ability of making each student feel like an individual whose perspective and mere presence is valuable to our collective academic enrichment. In a class of predominantly Anglo-Saxon males, I always had the confidence to speak up regardless of whether I thought it would be well received. Because Dr. Gander valued the pursuit of the best available truth not just a pre-determined answer, everyone’s additions brought us closer to a grasp at deeper comprehension. He was fascinated with our ability to find new meanings and connection in material he had taught numerous times. This made us all feel a desire to analyze everything that we encountered just so that we could share our discoveries with him. Of any quality teachers should have, they must be interested, not just interesting. Good teachers give to their students, but when you see them take away inspiration from your work, you learn first-hand that you have power in a world that may not always reflect these sentiments. Dr. Gander does what only a great teacher can do: cultivate novelty in a sea of mediocrity. #
Omoefe Ogbeide is a reporter at Education Update, a former student at Brandeis University and currently attends Landmark College.