You can also share a story about your experience as a student, but I’m asking specifically for stories as a professor. Mind your FERPA manners, though.

My favorite story is from my time as a T.A. at Mississippi State. At the time, history department T.A.s taught their own courses, so we made up our own syllabi, lectures, exams, etc. On on final exam for the Modern U.S. survey, I asked students to identify the most significant individual in modern U.S. history and explain why s/he was the most significant. I got the usual answers (MLK Jr., Ronald Reagan, John F. Kennedy, etc.), but one student gave the most memorable answer: Jewel.

Yes, that Jewel. She of the crooked teeth who penned angst-filled laments popular in the mid-1990s. Two full pages on why Jewel’s music was transformative and rapturous. I photocopied it for posterity, but I seem to have lost it after a couple of cross-country moves.

I saw the student working in a Memphis-area Joe’s Crab Shack a couple of years later. I remembered the student’s name and mentioned the Jewel answer to her. She was embarrassed, but I told her she should be proud of the fact that I would never forget her because of that answer. And I haven’t.

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