Winslow Homer’s painting The Country School (1871) in the 19th-century
Credit: Winslow Homer/Saint Louis Art Museum

During my freshman year in college, I was assigned to Tom Burns’s intro astronomy class and, the next semester, to his freshman writing seminar. By my sophomore year, he was also my boss at Perkins Observatory, where I interned for the next 3 years. Mr. Burns, with his omnipresent rainbow suspenders, was downright theatrical with the crowds who visited Perkins every month, his enthusiastic love of science leaving grins on every face as they took turns looking through the telescope. He held poetry readings at Perkins (before he retired as director in 2018) and for decades wrote astronomy columns for the Columbus Dispatch and the Delaware Gazette. At Perkins, I learned how to build a small radio telescope and how to drive a riding lawnmower, but most important I learned from Mr. Burns the absolute joy that great science communication can bring and that we all have the power to mark out any strange path that leads to a career we really want. Thanks, Mr. Burns.

—Heather Goss, Editor in Chief

For as long as I can remember, words and language have delighted me, so it makes sense that the person who immediately comes to mind when I cast my mind back to my formative years is my favorite linguistics professor. After starting my freshman year with a 300-level Old English course, I was hooked. My next linguistics course was an introduction to the history of the English language with Lee Pederson, who is best known for his Linguistic Atlas of the Gulf States. I took every course I could with Dr. Pederson during the rest of my years at Emory. In these classes, I learned about syntax, complete with sentence diagramming (fun!); wonderful new words like diphthong and alveolar ridge; and the International Phonetic Alphabet, which I still use today in note taking or to remember how someone pronounces their name. I found things like the French influence on English following the Norman Conquest; the Great Vowel Shift; and the fact that Ye Olde should actually be pronounced “the old” because the Y was originally the voiced dental fricative Þ (thorn), later replaced because of similarities in the letterforms, to be absolutely fascinating. These things were all so cool that I just had to share them with friends over lunch in the student union. Dr. Pederson died in 2015, so I can’t thank him now, and I don’t know that I ever did in so many words all those years ago, but I certainly hope that he knew what his classes meant to me. In those classes, I experienced real joy at learning for learning’s sake.

—feɪθ ‘ɪʃi, Production Manager

I would like to thank my junior year English/senior year ethics teacher, Mrs. Candace Taylor. I had great teachers from preschool through college, but Mrs. Taylor has always been the one whom I remember the most. The last I heard, she was teaching at a local junior college (and I assume she has her Ph.D. by now), but that was my first instance of someone close to me furthering their education. To this day, it amazes me that this picture-perfect high school teacher was striving to go further in her own career, proving that women these days don’t need to settle, we are strong, and we can go wherever we put our minds to.

—Melissa Tribur, Production Specialist

I owe my love of science to my middle school science teacher, Robin Rybarczyk. She devised the most captivating experiments for us: fermenting yogurt, growing plant variants à la Mendel, and re-creating river meanders in a sand and clay tank. Ms. Rybarczyk absolutely spoiled us with so many hands-on experiments, and because of her, I learned the basics of science through experience rather than through a textbook. I can’t thank her enough for her patience, for answering our questions with questions of her own, and for that mischievous twinkle in her eye that made me want to learn everything there was to know about the natural world. Thank you, Ms. Rybarczyk, and to all the teachers who have made my life so rich!

—Jenessa Duncombe, Staff Writer

First off, thank you to all the dedicated and wonderful teachers I’ve had, from preschool through high school and in college and grad school. I’d like to especially thank Dr. Paul Tomascak, who introduced me to geoscience and encouraged me onto the path that led me to where I am today. As a recent college graduate some number of years ago (ahem, the dates aren’t important), I was casting about, applying to various jobs but generally uncertain of what I actually wanted to do. I loved science and had studied chemistry as an undergrad but wasn’t sure a life in the lab was for me. A year later, I enrolled in a summer class at the University of Maryland—Geology 100!—to see whether I’d enjoy a field of science that I’d largely overlooked up to that point. Almost immediately, I was hooked. Dr. Tomascak’s lessons were vibrant and easygoing, and his slides were full of engaging photos and images (not just text!). When I asked him how geoscience graduate programs might look at a former chemistry student with a single geology course under his belt as an applicant, he assured me I’d be a worthy candidate and gave me confidence to go forth and apply. For that, I’ll always owe him a debt of gratitude. Thank you!

—Timothy Oleson, Science Editor

I’ve been blessed with dozens of wonderful teachers who have helped me along my way, but I want to thank three of them in particular right now. First is my mom, Diane Star, who taught elementary school kids for 20-some years, including me and my sister. She taught me that it’s more important to measure your accomplishments against your past self than against the achievements of others. Second, my high school physics teacher, Pete Ogilvie, taught me that “physics is phun” even if you’re struggling with Millikan’s oil drop experiment. He encouraged my curiosity and supported my desire to study astronomy and planetary science in college. And third, my adviser in graduate school, Jason Wright, provided me endless support and encouragement when I decided that the researcher’s life wasn’t for me. He gave me room to explore until I found what I was looking for and, when I did, helped me develop the skills and tools I would need to make it happen. From the bottom of my heart, thank you!

—Kimberly Cartier, Staff Writer


(2020), This week: We thank our teachers, Eos, 101, Published on 08 May 2020.

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