Pharos-Tribune

Columns

July 13, 2014

ENGLE: Challenging courses should be treasured

“Dr. Haave, we think you are asking for too much.”

I rarely saw her smile. Occasionally, she would have her lips upturned just a little and sometimes her eyes seemed to glitter with joy. On this day back in 1979, Dr. Haave showed a huge smile and her eyes were lit with joviality.

“If you wish,” she said warmly, “you can go talk to the department chairman.”

As I looked over my shoulder to see the expression of the student that had challenged her, I suppressed a chuckle. Dr. Haave would not be intimidated; someone had started a rumor, probably me, that she had once stared down a Tyrannosaurus rex.

I took three advanced composition courses from Dr. Haave. Her rules, grading scale, and attention to detail were beyond demanding. I never once earned an A, always a B. Yet, I would put her at the top of the list of my teachers.

All desks in her classes were occupied on the first day. Within a couple weeks, half of the seats would be empty.

No such thing existed as walking in late. Her closed door did not permit it. One day I missed the bus — I lived more than 2 miles away. I ran like a crazed beast to arrive just as she was shutting the door.

“A little late today, Mr. Engle.”

Gasping for air, I saw a glimmer of a smile from the 60-something professor. Missing class was not an option; she gave a quiz every day, class participation was essential, and information missed could not be duplicated. Making up a zero percent would not be possible.

However, once she did show some humanity. I became sick during the last week of the grading period, consequently missing the fine tuning on my 20-page research paper. I handed in the assignment on the last day. A couple days later I received a call. She wanted to see me.

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