Break a Leg

Andrew Bolig
Adjunct Faculty, Science

I could barely hear a faint knocking at the door over the storm lashing the windowpanes.  Outside, freezing rain had turned the roads into an ice rink as my students completed a midterm exam.  Tanya, on crutches and juggling a bookbag, struggled to knock again.  She had been hit by a car, totaling her vehicle and breaking her leg, yet still managed to show up to take an exam.  I was amazed at her persistence, and even more surprised by her composure as she performed admirably well.

It was some time before I saw her again, and I feared the worst.  After two weeks she appeared at my office hours and asked, almost pleading, if she could still be in my class.  I was puzzled, and said, “Of course,” explaining that it would take some effort to catch up with the missed material.  She had been prescribed heavy medication during her recovery, and her speech was a bit slow, though there was a bright spark in her eyes.

All of her other instructors had dropped her from their courses due to lack of attendance, and she was expecting the same from me.  Quite the contrary, I was deeply impressed by her resilience and dedication, and welcomed her back.  For the remainder of the semester, she came to all of my office hours well prepared, with a strong motivation to learn.  She made up for lost time and truly shined.  With a strong outgoing personality, she raised many questions in class that others were too timid to ask, which benefitted everyone in group discussions.  She finished the course with a 3.5, and went on to become a top student the next semester in a more advanced class.

I am most grateful for the exemplary dedication to learning and perseverance that Tanya showed in those difficult days.  One of our missions at LCC is to ensure that all students successfully complete their educational goals.  With all of the hurdles that life can place in our way, I had become complacent with retention rates that fell far short of this goal.  Witnessing the trials that one student overcame to achieve her goals reminded me what an honor and joy it is to facilitate this process.  She made me more cognizant of the challenges outside of the classroom that make success difficult, and more grateful for the opportunity to help others succeed against the odds.