By Erin Gallagher, Staff Writer
Photo courtesy of Gettysburg College Communications and Marketing.
Professor Chris Fee is the best. If you are in doubt, ask his students. Better yet, pick up a copy of The Princeton Review’s “The Best 300 Professors,” in which Professor Fee is featured. Published Apr. 3, “The Best 300 Professors” is a collaborative effort between The Princeton Review and RateMyProfessors.com. Professors featured in the book represent over 60 fields of study and hail from 122 colleges and universities across the nation.
The selection process took into account qualitative and quantitative data from student surveys and ratings collected by both The Princeton Review and RateMyProfessors.com. From a list of 42,000 professors considered, the chosen group of recognized professors constitutes less than .02% of the roughly 1.8 million post-secondary teachers instructing students at colleges and universities across the United States.
Regarding how he became involved with the project, Professor Fee said, “I was contacted late last summer by the Princeton Review. Actually, at first I thought it was some sort of internet scam targeting vain college professors…I kept expecting to be asked for credit card information… Even after I was assured that it was a legitimate project, I saw no particular reason why I should be recognized, so I was hesitant to complete the survey. I decided to participate in order to try to bring attention to the College. I really love my students and very much respect my colleagues, and I think that world-class teaching and learning happen every day at Gettysburg College.”
Considering the pool of considered professors, Professor Fee described his shock at being among the select few featured in the book, “Surprised doesn’t begin to express my reaction” he said. “Dumbfounded is nearer the mark. Quite seriously, I’m so surrounded by great teachers at Gettysburg that I’m constantly reminded of the fact that I need to try to stay at the top of my game. I mean, have you met Kerry Walters and Lisa Portmess in philosophy? How about Buz Myers in Religion? John Commito is like a rock star over there in ES, and Sharon Stephenson has made ‘physics’ synonymous with ‘cool.’ How many students has Kris Stuempfle helped achieve admission into a top medical school? I understand that even our beloved president has taught some fabulous classes in her day. You can’t throw a rock on this campus without hitting a fantastic teacher.”
First-year student Mandy Buell, who took Professor’s Fee First Year Seminar, Homelessness in America, last semester said, “Professor Fee really engages his students. His positive attitude in class makes you want to learn.”
Natasha Eulberg, previous student and PLA for the course this past semester, agrees. On what separates Professor Fee apart from other professors, she said, “ The ease with which Professor Fee’s able to balance the role of the academic professor and interactive discussion leader sets him apart from other professors. On one hand, his rigorous standards demand the best you can give of yourself academically… However, he is also remarkably involved with facilitating discussion among students and demanding that they formulate their own opinions based on the material with which they’re presented.”
Eulberg, who took “Homelessness in America” last year, says becoming the peer learning associate (PLA) for the course this year was a role “too good to pass up.” On her position this year, she said, “Working with Professor Fee was a great experience – he gave me many, many opportunities to place myself in a leadership role within the course and to help develop discussions or program involvement that I felt would be relevant or important for the students. That flexibility was one of the things I liked most about working with Professor Fee: he’s constantly looking for ways to improve and expand the students’ experience, and he’s very open to feedback and suggestions.”
In light of these positive reviews, Fee considers his success as a teacher as not entirely of his own doing. “Any teaching success I might enjoy is attributable both to the great teachers I’ve had and I’ve observed, as well as to the great students who inspire and challenge me every day,” he said.
Regarding his ultimate goal for his students, Fee said, “I hope my students feel like they were full partners in a collaborative process, and that they can tell that I care: about each class, and about each student.”
According to Eulberg, Professor Fee’s care for the student is unmistakable. “The care he takes to get to know students personally is always very evident. As his student, I was always very comfortable sharing my thoughts and participating in class discussions, because the class environment which Professor Fee develops is extremely open. Moreover, Professor Fee stands as an excellent advisor or “sounding board” whenever a student just needs to talk.”
Senior Arielle Distasio most recently worked with Professor Fee on her English honors thesis:
“Not only was Professor Fee a supportive advisor through this entire process, but the topic of my thesis (Gender and Language) actually came from the History of the English Language course I took with him during my first year when he encouraged us to explore an aspect of the English language that interested us. Though I did not continue my research in that area until I began my honors thesis last year, that exploration into something outside the more typical literature-based class always stuck with me. And who can forget something that is linked with a class where your professor regularly kicked over chairs pretending he was invading England in 1066?”
Senior Tommy Bender also has worked with Professor Fee over his four years and fondly recalls his experience: “I’ve had three classes with Fee and have thoroughly enjoyed each one. He made each class really worth going to and his passion for teaching transfers to the students. He loves what he does and I have a great appreciation for the subjects he taught me because of him. He did make me ba like a sheep everytime he called my name last semester, but that didn’t traumatize me too much and I know that he was just trying to get me to practice for my role as a sheep in our awesome play.”
Overall, most students agree that Professor Fee teaches with a passion, an assertion that he himself recognizes. “Teaching is indeed a passion for me, and one I combine with passions I have for subject matter ranging from epic poetry to dramatic production to social justice,” he said. “I love my vocation as a teacher, my job at Gettysburg College, and most of all my students, who breathe life and fire into my career.”
More information on Professor Fee’s recognition by the Princeton Review’s “The Best 300 Professors” can be found on the Gettysburg College website.