To the Professor Who Supported Me as a College Student With a Disability
You didn’t know when you looked at this semester’s roster that you would have a student with a disability in your classroom. When you received an email from the disability center, you didn’t know I would follow up with a four-page email explaining my condition more in-depth.
When I handed you my accommodations slip on the first day of class, you held me after class to discuss with me how you could help. Even though you never used to carry your cell phone in class with you, you brought it to class each day to call 911 for me if needed. You took my advice on talking with a former professor I recommended who had me in their class last semester. You weren’t aware my case was specially handled by the Dean of Students.
In class, I could see you keeping an eye on me even though there were 60 other students as well. When I needed help, even after my parents, police and EMTs arrived and class was over an hour ago, you stayed there with me the whole time until I left the building. You never imagined you would become pals with the EMTs. When I was shaking because I was cold, you took off your jacket and laid it on me. You prayed for me, helped carry me, and texted me afterwards to check how I was doing.
You took the time outside of class to explain the lesson I missed and catch me up. You let me walk into your office and laugh, cry and lie down with life’s ups and downs. The advice, encouragement and honesty you gave kept me from leaving college earlier. I learned not to be ashamed of my disability because of you. You helped me uncover my blind spots and accept where I was. You knew how hard starting college was and couldn’t imagine the level it was now dealing with a brand-new disability. Even though I didn’t tell you I had a bad day, you would find out through the college grapevine and let me skip class.
When I had to commute from home, you made sure to email early enough when you canceled class so that I didn’t waste two hours driving to and from campus. It was not a big deal when I had to reschedule my mid-term three times. When you saw an ambulance on campus, you would text me to make sure I was OK.
When you were no longer my professor, you would still come up to me in the student center to see how I was doing. We could laugh and shake our heads at the memories of you accidentally hitting my arm on door when carrying me out of the classroom, me having a flare-up while sitting with your family at dinner, and jokes about passing out. Thank you for choosing to teach. You weren’t aware of the additional responsibilities you were going to have when I was in your class, but you were just the professor and friend I needed.
Getty image by Shironosov.