Ending a Stressful Spring Semester with a Thank You Note

“You have been a wonderful instructor this semester … Even when we were forced to transition online, you went above and beyond to make sure we were able to adapt to our new work environments. You are a phenomenal example of what universities should look for in a professor.”

“During this crazy pandemic and switch to online classes, (TA) has been so supportive of us all. He shows us that he really cares about how we are doing and understands the valuable time on grounds with our peers that this situation has taken from us … I am very grateful to have had (him) as a TA this semester and especially during this pandemic.”

Those are just two of hundreds of heartwarming messages the Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE) collected through its newly launched Thank-a-Prof/TA initiative. The CTE invited students to submit thank-you notes to their professors and teaching assistants following the spring semester. As of June 1, 600 student messages had been distributed.

“We thought it was important to honor instructors for the extraordinary work that went into moving courses online in the matter of a week,” said CTE Associate Director Dorothe Bach, who spearheaded the initiative. “It has been a steep learning curve for everyone, and it means a lot to instructors to hear that their efforts are appreciated.”

In March, midway through the semester, UVA moved more than 4,200 courses due to COVID-19. Instructors hurriedly shifted to remote instruction over spring break, receiving support from the CTE and other units across Grounds. Still, the transition wasn’t easy for instructors and students alike.

One student wrote: “Your lives were upended just as much as ours were, and yet the burden fell on you to orchestrate ways to generate some pocket of normalcy for your students. This is a task you took on valiantly, calmly, and enthusiastically, and I cannot thank you enough for allowing the reprieve of education to maintain its presence in my life during this time.”

“The thank-you notes are heartfelt and give testimony that instructors not only mastered the tech aspect of the shift but were present in their students’ lives as people who deeply cared about their well-being during the pandemic,” Bach said. “Students looked forward to their classes, which provided stability in a time of upheaval, and looked to their teachers as role models for navigating uncertainty and pain.”

Through Thank-a-Prof/TA, students could submit thank you notes with their name or anonymously. The CTE then sent those notes to the professor or TA on their behalf.

Dozens of instructors have responded with appreciation in turn after receiving the thank yous, with several saying the notes made their day.

On Twitter, one faculty member wrote, “And this morning I received a *real* thank you note from a real student via @cte_uva who are making sure instructors get to learn about the positive impact they have on the students they teach. This effort is doubly appreciated during this messed up distanced semester.”

Students, along with staff, alumni, and parents/guardians could also submit general thank you messages to instructors, which were shared with all professors and TAs.

The CTE will continue to collect thank you notes for future academic periods.

To read more student messages and information on the initiative, please visit https://cte.virginia.edu/programs-grants/thank-profta.

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