Dear President Liebowitz,

Last fall I had the tremendous benefit of arriving on this campus and beginning my Middlebury journey in the classroom of Visiting Assistant Professor of Education Studies Tara Affolter.  Immediately I was challenged in numerous ways to critically analyze the complexities of systems of oppression, and seriously interrogate how education can serve as a tool to disrupt those oppressions.  Professor Affolter powerfully created a respectful learning environment in which the investigation of topics of privilege could honestly be pursued.  In many ways the class grew from being confronted with the discomfort of recognizing that none of us were normal or held the one true story, even if as a result of others being silenced we were led to believe so.  Through being provoked to gain awareness of how each of our stories were simply one among many, we were able to validate everyone’s lived experiences and ensure that there was room carved out for each of us to learn from the ways in which we are situated in the world.  Professor Affolter’s actions serve to epitomize an inclusive classroom, something for which all of our professors must strive.

Since Professor Affolter’s visiting status indicates that she is to leave come the end of the academic year, I am writing on behalf of the Institutional Diversity Committee to demonstrate our firm conviction that keeping Professor Affolter is imperative to Middlebury College’s diversity efforts.  During her time here she has been an invaluable asset and resource affecting countless students in immeasurable ways.  In the classroom she makes sure that she fairly addresses all students of every race, gender, sex, sexuality, ability, class, and any other form of identity that is too often marginalized in the classroom.  Outside of the classroom Professor Affolter is a tremendous and dependable strength of support for many students and the various difficulties they have engaging in the Middlebury College environment.

Professor Affolter’s research efforts and work with the Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity directly address difficult issues and specific ways in which our campus may appropriately deal with them.  Her unrelenting passion for mindfully addressing diversity through anti-racist action and inclusive classrooms provide a precious asset to this campus.  Her absence would leave a tremendous hole.  The Institutional Diversity Committee advises that it is essential to retain faculty, especially Professor Affolter, who have taken a lead in fostering a diverse community embodied by an atmosphere of respect.  I invite you to please read through the many passionate comments and signatures at go/keepaffolter which serve as testament to the student body’s support of this decision to keep Professor Affolter as a vital component of Middlebury College.  We appreciate your understanding and look forward to helping in any way to continue to strive to make this campus exhibit excellence in dealing with serious diversity issues.

With all the best interest for the college,

Jay Saper

Institutional Diversity Committee

56 thoughts on “Dear President Liebowitz,

  1. Henry Clark

    So far I have taken two classes with Tara and am on the waiting list for her class next semester. At first it surprised me that a educational studies class filled up so fast as I have never had any problems in the past. But then at the same time, it makes perfect sense that Tara’s class was already full. She’s easily the best professor I’ve had in my 2 years at Middlebury.

    Best. That’s a broad, non-descriptive word that is often thrown around about things we are fond of. Tara is extremely effective in transmitting knowledge, explaining concepts, giving lectures, leading discussions, and relating the content of her class to our lives. She truly understands what it means to be a young person and she uses this knowledge to reach EVERYONE in the class at the same time.

    What really separates Tara from other professors I’ve had at Middlebury is her interest she took with me as a person, not just a student. She genuinely is interested in what every one of her students is up to outside of the classroom. She cares where we come from, where we went to high school, and where we want to go after college. She doesn’t do this just because she’s a nice lady who likes making new friends. Tara uses all of this knowledge to reach me as a student.

    I have never spent more time on the teacher evaluations at the end of the semester than I did for Professor Affolter, and I wasn’t the only one. Between this site and those stacks of evaluations, the student body’s opinion on this Professor are clear.

    Tara Affolter needs to be on this campus as long as you can convince her to stay.

  2. rgandler

    Last semester, I was fortunate enough to take Education in the U.S. with Tara Affolter. It was without a doubt the best class I have taken thus far at Middlebury. By the second day of class Tara knew the name of every single student in the 50 person lecture. She is clearly passionate and dedicated to the job and that is clear in the way she teaches. Her teaching inspired me to continue in the field of education and truly value the power of education for social justice. Tara Affolter is an exemplary professor who, through her passion for the subject matter, has completely shifted my perspectives on the world. If Middlebury were not to keep Tara, it would be a huge mistake.
    -Rosa Gandler ’13

  3. Alexandra Boillot

    Professor Affolter is a great professor and a friend to every single one of her students. She cares about every single student that walks through her door in an extraordinary way. She not only cares about them as people and would be there for any student who asked her for help but also she cares about every student learning from her in a way I have not seen many other professors care. She truly has a passion for what she teaches about and this comes across in her classes. As an Education Studies minor, I have put a lot of thought into what constitutes a good professor or teacher, and Professor Affolter has many of the characteristics that I think are essential for a good professor. Therefore, it is important to keep her as an invaluable resource to Middlebury students because she will teach students what it means to be a good teacher or professor not just through her course material but through her example. I also think that she fills a very important niche in the Education Department through her focus on Social Justice. The importance of Social Justice not just in education but in our society cannot be emphasized enough. Professor Affolter’s knowledge on this subject is of great use to Middlebury students. After taking her Education in America class I was able to truly grasp the importance of fixing the wrongs in our educational system so that everyone in America can enjoy the benefits of our democratic education. I really hope that Professor Affolter is given a permanent spot at Middlebury so that I can take more classes with her and learn from her as much as possible. I agree with everything that everyone else has said about her and truly hope that future Middlebury students can continue to have the benefit of her classes and presence on this campus. She truly embodies so much what the Middlebury community is all about.

  4. Brittany Gendron

    In these times of financial worry — news report after report seems to appear of how people across the country and the world are “getting back to the basics.”

    For Middlebury College, Professor Affolter is a basic, vital need (though by no means is her teaching, intellect, passion, and heart anything close to basic or ordinary). She is a basic and vital need because of the fact that she IS what Middlebury College is about. As everyone has said, she changes lives, minds, and the very soul of her students and everyone she encounters. She is there for you, 110% (she was also there 110% for me when I had not yet even had her as a teacher, just needed Education Studies advice). Is that not what college is about, and what professors should be?

    Somewhere in this budget of ours, if possible, I hope there is a way to keep Professor Affolter here. There has to be! She is a vital, irreplaceable asset to this college: the students, faculty, staff and larger community. She is NOT someone we want to, or should be saying goodbye to.

    1. Hannah Spielberg

      I will be echoing the sentiments of many of these posts when I say that Tara has changed my life. Her Education in America class, which I took during my first semester of freshman year, drastically changed my perspectives on education, privilege and inequality; while she challenged us to question our preconceived notions, she also masterfully balanced this pedagogy by validating the identities, backgrounds, and experiences of everyone in the classroom. I decided to be an Education minor because of Tara’s class, both because I wanted to take as many classes as I could with such an incredible, inspiring individual while she was here, and because Tara’s class made me interested in education—a field that I had never considered before college. If Tara stayed at Middlebury, I know she would continue to change the lives of so many people—student and faculty alike. I cannot, and do not want to, envision Middlebury without her.

      Tara is such an important presence on campus because she constantly reminds us of those who are not present—what voices are not being heard that need to be heard, what issues are not being talked about that need to be talked about, what people are not here that need to be here. If Middlebury loses Tara, we would lose an incomparable presence on campus and an invaluable advocate for addressing issues of class, race, disability, sexuality, and gender on campus.

      Tara’s classes often center on what it means to create a truly inclusive classroom, from kindergarten to college, and how this inclusion carries over into other realms of life. Tara has been the one teacher I have had who consistently practices what she preaches—she demonstrates the most inclusive classroom practices by always engaging us in every minute of every discussion, making connections to our lives, and encouraging open-mindedness and critical thinking. Most importantly, Tara creates an inclusive classroom environment by being the genuine, caring person that she is—she focuses on the strengths of every student and she cares not only about individuals, but about the classroom community, the school environment, and society as a whole. After having Tara as a professor, I finally understand what it means to have a teacher who can change you, and also make you feel validated in who you are. Tara has changed my world. The whole Middlebury community would be missing out on a great role model if Tara was no longer here, so I would urge the college to keep Tara at Middlebury for as long as possible.

      Thank you very much for hearing our opinions.

  5. Hanna Mahon

    A few days ago I made the claim that Tara Affolter is one of the most amazing educators I have ever known. Then my friend gently reminded me that I have only ever spoken with Tara three times.

    While this might make others incredulous about my passion around retaining Tara as a professor at Middlebury, I think it is very telling. There are few teachers I would make such a statement about. The way I see it, as humans we all can sense when someone is treating us with respect, when someone is truly engaging with us, when someone is challenging us, when someone is supporting us, and when someone is inspiring us. So when a student says that there is a teacher doing all of these things (which is what I am claiming in Tara’s case), even if a student has only interacted with said teacher three times, that is important.

    When students here talk about classes oftentimes we will say things like “Oh, that class. Yeah, it’s pretty good. Really you get out of it what you put into it.” With Tara, I think that not only do you get out of speaking with her (or taking one of her courses I assume) what you put into it, but you get something more. For example, let’s consider the act of asking someone for change for a $5 bill. In most situations you give someone a $5 bill and come away with five ones or four ones with a few quarters thrown in. Well, when putting $5 into a conversation with Tara you’re almost certainly going to come away with something like 45 rupees, 83 yen, 4 pesos, 43 afghanis, and 9 dirhams. In both cases you literally get out of the transaction what you put into it: $5 (I think that math should add up). In the first situation, you would probably be content that you got five dollar bills for your $5 bill, but it’s likely that you wouldn’t think much of it. When faced with a collection of rupees, yen, pesos, afghanis, and dirhams, suddenly things get interesting. Suddenly you have to do some real thinking. Suddenly you are much more aware of life’s possibilities.

    And here we are again in the world of seemingly hyperbolic statements. Really the bottom line is just that we (and here I am speaking for myself and everyone who has written a wonderful testimonial about Tara on this great site) know that without Tara as a professor we will be able to get out of our Middlebury experience what we put into it, but at the same time we are all simply too excited to see what she will inspire us get out of it to let her leave just yet.

    Hanna Mahon

  6. Hannah Temkin

    If Middlebury College is truly invested “to cultivate the intellectual, creative, physical, ethical, and social qualities essential for leadership in a rapidly changing global community,” as is stated in the Mission Statement, it is important that people like Professor Affolter consistently stay on in the academic community. Her pilot class for the spring semester, Social Justice and Education, has the potential to innovate the way we approach education here at Middlebury and in the world at large. It is arguably one of the most relevant curricula I have seen at this school so far.
    ~ Hannah Temkin ’13

  7. Chase Marston

    Since my senior year of high school, I’ve known that I want to be a teacher. Of course, I was nervous coming into college, and delayed taking classes in the edu department until sophomore year, mostly because the department seemed so foreign. Last year’s spring, though, I took a class with Professor Affolter, and I considered myself so lucky to have picked her Secondary Edu Methods. When I found out that she was a visiting Professor, I considered myself even luckier that I had the opportunity to take classes with her. Since then, I have registered for as many of her classes as I could, to get as much “Affolter Time” before she leaves.
    So, whoever reads this, PLEASE listen when I urge you to give every student who comes through Middlebury to get to have to privilege to see this professor teach: it is unlike an experience elsewhere in the college.
    I can honestly say that Professor Affolter is one of my favorite professors I have ever had at Middlebury. Her classroom setting is so fun, warm, and exciting, but also productive, efficient, and meaningful. While she teaches us how to teach, she not only shows us very clearly what is effective teaching styles, pedagogy or activities, but she also conveys how in large, class-wide, thoughtful discussions. Never have I felt so comfortable sharing my thought than I have in her classroom.
    The last thing I will say is that Professor Affolter goes beyond teaching, and I believe that she is a good friend to every student she has ever had. She genuinely cares about us, and it shows (as is proven by this website). If Middlebury doesn’t keep Tara Affolter around for as long as she is willing to stay, it would be very foolish. Why give up such a valuable prize if we have the ability to keep her, and watch her help every student that goes through her department.

  8. Liz Hand

    “At Middlebury College we challenge students to participate fully in a vibrant and diverse academic community. The College’s Vermont location offers an inspirational setting for learning and reflection, reinforcing our commitment to integrating environmental stewardship into both our curriculum and our practices on campus.” – Middlebury College Website,

    Wow, does that statement embody Professor Affolter’s work and commitment to the enrichment of Middlebury College students! I cannot think of a more inspirational educator and leader at Middlebury!

    As an education minor at Middlebury, I was extremely fortunate to have had Tara in my last semester. Tara was my professor, but she was also my mentor during my Student Teaching Professional Semester at Middlebury Union High School. From the first day that I met Tara, I was inspired by her enthusiasm, her honesty and transparency, her ability to engage her students (which has to be daunting and challenging in a room of 60 students), and her presence as a caring member of the College community. Honestly, I have never had a Professor at Middlebury who had the knowledge, experience, and sense of purpose in challenging my preconceived notions about education- something that all education minors, and students in general, should be exposed to at Middlebury. Tara gave me the permission to feel discomfort in reflecting on my own education, and the ways that privilege affects my life, while at the same time she gave me the tools to move forward and better my educational practices using this new knowledge. While this may sound negative, my discomfort was actually extremely helpful, because I learned to analyze education and myself in ways that I had previously shied away from (out of ignorance and fear). Selfishly, that was incredibly valuable as an aspiring teacher: to be able to reflect on biases, abilities, successes, and failures in order become an educator who is conscious of the myth of meritocracy (when it comes to an even playing field in the classroom, in education in general, and in society as a whole).

    Tara’s teaching and mentorship have been invaluable to me. From the perspective of an Education Minor at Middlebury, I think it would be a grave error to fail to renew her contract with Middlebury. Her recent teaching experiences (in public education) make her the most qualified Education Studies Professor that I encountered at Middlebury. What I mean to say is, those students seriously considering pursuing a career in education would benefit enormously from her continued work and guidance because she can easily relate. For me, this was incredibly useful in my student teaching semester: to have a professor/mentor who relied on actual and recent teaching experience, rather than on theory or long-ago experience, to suggest interventions or modifications for my own teaching. Beyond her amazing abilities within the classroom, Tara is an extremely caring and dedicated person. She is a wonderful asset and resource within the Middlebury community, and was one of a handful of professors that I encountered at Middlebury who I felt truly cared about my education.

    I hope to see Tara the next time I stop through Middlebury for a visit!

    Liz Hand
    Class of 2009.5

  9. Michael Campbell

    In many ways Professor Affolter, along with a select few other students and professors on campus, represents the ideal Middlebury world I envisioned when I applied and was accepted to Midd. She’s an engaged and engaging force committed to the well-being of Middlebury’s community and the American education system as a whole. The amount of students who personally know Tara is a testament to the strength of her presence here, be it in Posse Plus retreats, the CCSRE, lectures and discussions, and other events on campus. I was amazed when I first heard last year that Tara was relatively new to Middlebury, because it seemed like everybody knew her name.

    This past spring I helped plan a retreat for this fall focused on supporting incoming freshmen who might need extra help adjusting to a new environment. We collectively were hesitant to ask for faculty support until someone brought up Professor Affoter as an advisor who would know how to support us without stepping on our toes. In the middle of that frustrating planning meeting, everyone in the room sort of lifted their heads and smiled at the thought of Tara helping us out. It was the only proposal everyone immediately agreed to. And she pulled through for us.

    Tara’s dedicated to her craft. She cares about social justice and finding ways to improve our education system. She challenges her students to defend their own opinions and to consider them critically, regardless of the nature of those opinions. Professor Affolter is a walking brochure for the kind of college Middlebury strives to be.

  10. Diane Lopez

    Though I have never been given the honor to take a class with Tara, I was privileged enough to share an entire weekend with her during the Posse Plus Retreat. I use the word privilege because her insight and contribution to the retreat was one that will never ever be forgotten. I remember that she was in my family group, and we were going around sharing stories about times in which we felt discriminated upon. Not only was she listening to my story attentively, eager to respond and just say “Sorry you have to deal with that in Middlebury,” but she also trusted us with her stories and opened up to us. She talked to us about her family, her kids, and how it is to be raising an African American child here in Vermont. The moment she disclosed her stories, I immediately asked myself “Why haven’t I met this woman before?” You may wonder why, and I’ll tell you why.

    Prof. Affolter is ONE of the VERY FEW Professors on this campus who is willing and able to talk about race, ethnicity, and discrimination, in a respectful but down to earth manner. She is one of 3 Profs. on this campus that I have engaged in a dialogue with about race- and I am a Senior. The work that she does on this campus is VITAL for the growth of Middlebury. We stress the importance of diversity on this campus, and she brings it with her knowledge and expertise. She stirs up conversations that this campus is afraid of talking about or even addressing, for example, issues on RACE, ETHNICITY, DIVERSITY. Just because we have “diversity” in our mission statement does not mean that our campus as a full understanding of what that word means. We need someone who can help unravel and give a thorough understanding to the students; we need someone like Prof. Affolter. She sat with us for 3 days during the Posse Plus Retreat, and really challenged us to think differently. She truly is one of a kind. If we lose Prof. Affolter, it would seriously harm Middlebury Campus in so many ways.

    Diane (Dee) Lopez ’11

  11. Shqipnije Bytyqi

    I’ve never had class with Tara. I’ve actually come across her only informally at talks and lectures and on campus. That says a lot–she is a professor that is present on campus, although she hasn’t been with us for a long period of time. Tara has taken it upon herself to step up and facilitate events that she isn’t necessarily obligated to–like one of the “What is color” talks last year, to which she brought an interesting perspective and in which she created a comfortable environment for the sharing of all opinions–a safe space. Tara brings more to Middlebury than we can afford to lose–she brings experience in subjects that are usually overlooked and unspoken and underrated, she brings the courage to discuss these topics, such as inequality, race, public education, etc. Tara contributes to the Education Studies department, Tara contributes to the campus, Tara is a presence. Coming from a student who has never actually sat in class with her, this should mean a lot. I wouldn’t be sitting here, in Spain, writing this instead of my junior thesis if I didn’t actually believe that she’s an important addition to Middlebury. Keep Tara!! It would be a tragedy if I don’t get to take a class with her next year, I hear only great things.

  12. Alana Jenkins

    Tara Affolter is an amazing resource to the Middlebury community. She listens to the students, has experiences that allows her to understand many walks of life.

    As I am writing this I find myself lost for words, because no formulated paragraph can explain the power that Professor Affolter brings to Middlebury. She’s a real person with stories to share that are worthwhile, and on top of all of that she knows how to teach. In her method’s class she taught us to teach without using only the textbook, she put the concepts into our minds, using our bodies, using our voices…there are not many people, let alone professors who know how to teach in a way that is effective and enjoyable.

    To lose Professor Affolter would be to derail from the mission of Middlebury College.

    So, President Liebowitz, Dean Ralph, and others who are involved in this decision, do us all a favor and keep Professor Affolter.

  13. Luis Alvarez

    Tara’s class opened my eyes to many things that I have never before thought about, and unlike many of my other classes, the things I learned in Education in America will stay with me forever.
    Tara seems to care about all of her students. My first interaction with her came at the library in my first week of classes when I was just about to drop her class. I was on bannerweb figuring out what class I should switch into and saw her at the computer across from me. I told her that I would take her class at some point but that it seemed too overwhelming for my first semester in college.
    She told me not to let the upperclassmen intimidate me and that the work would be more than bearable. Although it still ended up being one of my lower grades, in hindsight, it would have been a huge mistake to drop the course.
    Tara’s a great person and professor. I hope she stays.

  14. Jessica Kimball

    Like many have said before, Professor Affolter is undoubtedly a gem and an outstanding addition to the Education Studies department.

    I attended Professor Affolter’s “mock” lesson she presented during her interview process. The room was filled predominately with other faculty members and I was among a small group of students curious who the candidates were for the open position. From the beginning of the lesson, she exuded an energy and enthusiasm that captivated my attention and drew me in to what she had to share with us. I was especially impressed with the fact that at Wisconsin she was both a high school teacher and a college professor. Her daily experiences “in the trenches” of the high school classroom definitely gave her a unique and authentic perspective on what she taught her Education Studies (and prospective teachers) at the college level. Anyways, about half way through her lesson, Professor Affolter broke the “class” into small groups and asked us to brainstorm on various topics related to her lesson. Following our group brainstorm, she fostered discussion by asking for our thoughts and comments. While the hands of those who had the power to determine her future employment rose around my raised hand, she called on me first and genuinely considered my response. She treated me as an adult, and her attentiveness and interest demonstrated that she truly cared what I had to say. As our fleeting interaction proved, she valued my opinion and saw me as individual that she could hold an honest discussion with; she recognized that we could both learn from one another.

    Although I am an Education Studies minor, I am sorry to say I never had Professor Affolter in class. This is not because I did not want to, but simply because I had completed most of my requirements by the time she joined the Edu Studies team. That being said, I have still been able to foster a very close relationship with her. She willingly supervised me during my student teaching semester, has discussed with me my teaching philosophy and general outlook on education numerous times, met with me about possible jobs for the future, and always greets me with a smile and wave whenever I see her on or off campus. She believes in me as a teacher and, while she has never had me in class, has gone out of her way to demonstrate support in whatever ways possible. I reached out to her and she immediately took me under her wing. Through her passion for teaching and ceaseless dedication to her students she reminds me exactly why I want to become an educator.

  15. Shannon Muscatello

    I, like many of the students replying to this thread, have had the distinct pleasure of having found such a gem in our faculty. I had Tara for Education in the US, and then decided that, no matter what course she was teaching in the fall, I had to take it. I am currently in her Literacy Across Secondary Curriculum class, and it is not a disappointment. Aside from being my favorite professor because of the way she teaches, Tara is one of the only professors I have truly connected with here. She is the only one who I have invited to one of my a capella performances, and I really find her engaging to talk to. I want to continue our discussions after class and just talk about how she views life and teaching. She has made me want to become a fantastic teacher, and incorporate all of the ideas of social justice into my future classrooms. Because of her, I wonder why all teachers do not have the same ideals of inclusion. She likes to discuss “checking identities at the door” and how that can affect students if their professors or teachers force them to do that. She never has us “check our identities at the door” because she knows how important our identities are to the way we learn and create in the classroom. She teaches us that culturally relevant pedagogy is one of the most important things in a class, getting to know and using the cultures of the students, and she does that to the fullest extent with us. She always practices what she preaches, and if you ever audit a class of hers, you will understand and be amazed. I am unable to take a class with her in the spring, but that will not stop me from talking to her, going to her office hours just to chat, or inviting her to a capella concerts. She is such an amazing person to be around, I wouldn’t be able to bear a semester without her. My only wish is that I could have known her from her and my first semester, and that I could have extended this relationship longer. She should be kept here as a professor due to all the amazing contributions to her students’ lives that she has made.
    -Shannon Muscatello ’13

  16. Colby Gibbs

    Like Elma I also took Tara Affolter’s Education in the U.S. in my first semester at Middlebury. Tara is someone that easily made my first semester unbelievable. Her class challenges you. She talks about subjects that other people are afraid to talk about. Affolter makes you question yourself in the best ways possible. She brings an outlook to education that I have never witnessed before. During discussion sections we all challenged each other and were truthful and vulnerable about topics like race, oppression and privilege. I will never forget reading the document of White Privilege for the first time. It’s reasons like these that make Tara Affolter a unique and perfect asset to the Middlebury College community. She’s a role model, educator and friend to her students. She can never be replaced and should therefore stay on campus. She’s perfect for this school.
    -Colby Gibbs ’13

  17. Rajwinder Kaur

    Tara is my confidant, a friend, a teacher and a role model. Since taking her class last spring, I have seen myself and my friends in the class grow. We all have an open relationship with her in which we can talk about a range of issues such as race, understanding a syllabus, miscommunication with other professors, and a death of a friend. I’ll just cut to the chase–I have spoken to her about all these and more. Each time, she has guided me without telling me what to do. Being there, without being in your face. Most importantly, she’s a faculty member who speaks to us. Speaks our language. Losing her would leave a hole on this campus. There is no other professor I can name off the top of my head that has impacted students so personally and would continue to do so. Middlebury needs more people like Tara.

    Rajwinder Kaur ’11

  18. Alison Siegel

    I would like to echo what my peers have said already, and I support this letter. I took Education in the US with Professor Affolter last fall, and it was easily one of the best classes I have taken at Middlebury. Professor Affolter pushed me to think critically about my education and to recognize how lucky I am to have had great teachers and to be at Middlebury. Professor Affolter is a truly wonderful teacher who, I believe, embodies many of the core values that Middlebury seeks to instill in its students, including critical analysis, self-reflection, and independent thinking. She teaches her students to be leaders and she recognizes each student’s strengths, allowing everyone to do his or her best.

    Despite the fact that the class met for 75 minutes at 1:30 in the afternoon, I always felt engaged by Professor Affolter’s lectures. I looked forward to doing the reading and homework for her class, even though we were learning about serious issues that out country faces. Before starting college, I wanted to be a teacher, but I let that idea fade as I pursued other interests. Professor Affolter showed me that good teachers are the key to a successful education system, and made me reconsider teaching. She inspired me to go out and make a positive difference in the world, which is one of the most important aspects of teaching. I hope that Professor Affolter can continue to have such a positive impact on Middlebury Students. She is a wonderful professor who can truly contribute to Middlebury’s values and goals. Thank you for reading what we have to say, and thank you Professor Affolter for your inspiration and encouragement.

    -Alison Siegel ’12

  19. Amanda Bowen

    I have always thought of myself as a tolerant person, aware of one’s race, sexual orientation, socio-economic class, etc…but making no judgement by it. Professor Affolter, however, and her class on education in America, made me question my tolerance. Was my tolerance really that non-judgemental? I claimed not to hold any prejudices, but did my casual retelling of jokes or my uninformed way of referring to people support this claim? Class with Prof. Affolter, as well as her assigned readings, and even one-on-one discussions with her were invaluable to my development as a truly tolerant person. I am now less judgmental of those aspects of people’s lives they have no control over than I previously thought possible, while I have become increasingly judgmental and questioning of our so called “democratic society” and its relationship to minorities. Prof. Affolter has been the single most influential person in my decision to go to graduate school and get my masters in Urban Education.

    As Prof. Affolter has had this effect on one, I am sure that she has influenced other individuals as well to analyze their lives and to become better people. If she can have such a profound effect on individuals, imagine the effect she could have on the Middlebury campus if invited to stay on as a member of the faculty…

    Prof. Affolter is an amazing and dedicated woman. She is dedicated to her friends, her family, her students, her dogs, her passions, education, and for lack of a better term at the moment, Civil Rights. She has proven herself dedicated to Middlebury College in a way few professors have ever seemingly done. It is imperative to the Education Studies program and to the community of individuals still concerned with civil rights on campus that Prof. Affolter remain a member of the Middlebury College community.

    praying that you will keep Tara here at Middlebury,
    ~Amanda Bowen ’11

  20. Gabrielle Arca

    Tara is simply a blessing to anyone she meets. She is both untouchably genius and incredibly human at the same time and this combination does wonders. The ability to push students and yet make them comfortable and feel like they are in a safe space is her crowning glory –and an ability I will argue many professors here struggle to do effectively. This woman cares with all her heart not only about what she is teaching or her student’s lives, but also cares deeply about bigger societal inequities that she engages everyone around her to address. In this way, she merges the ‘real world’ and the classroom and makes learning relevant and meaningful. Her passion and compassion go hand in hand into everything she does and towards everyone she encounters. She has personally been a mother- figure to me on this campus, and I think countless others would say the same. In just two years she has become an irreplaceable part of this community.

    Tara is the reason I am still here and sane. And Tara is the reason I am excited and inspired more than ever to pursue my dream to teach. I think that inspiration in itself is the ultimate goal of the vocation of a Professor. I personally do not know what more you could ask for. An individual this awe-inspiring, supportive, and REAL needs to stay on this campus. This institution should see it as an obligation to it’s mission statements to keep someone like Tara Affolter here for as long as humanly possible.

    This woman has changed my life. And many other student’s lives as well. I stand behind everything Jay has said. We need to keep Tara here.

    – Gabrielle Arca ’13

  21. Audrey Tolbert

    It would not be an understatement for me to claim, that out of the hundreds of fantastic people I have met here so far at Middlebury College, it is Tara Affolter who has had the most impact on my life. Not only is she an incredible educator, but she is also an amazing friend and advisor as well.

    I have been fortunate enough to take two classes with Professor Affolter: Education in America in Spring 2010 and Literacy Across Secondary Curriculum in Fall 2010. Not only have they been my favorite classes so far here at Midd, but they have also been my most worthwhile classes. Professor Affolter teaches in the Education Studies Department for a reason; she’s an amazing teacher. The sense of community she develops in her classes facilitates not only learning about the subject of the class, but a learning of life as well. She welcomes every student’s voice into the classroom and is truly invested in one’s growth as a learner and a person. Her classes have reaffirmed my ambitions to go into the field of education, and I only hope that I will one day have as much of an impact on my students as she has had on hers.

    Not only is Tara a wonderful teacher, but she is an amazing friend as well. She is always willing to take the time to listen to me when I need someone to talk to, whether it be on the subject of choosing a major or just in regards to an upcoming swim meet. I spent this past summer working here at Middlebury, but was also employed by the Affolter family themselves as chief dog sitter. It was wonderful to get to know Tara and her family better. I feel as though it is relationships like this that Middlebury prides itself on.

    Teachers like Tara are the reason Middlebury is not just an amazing school, but an amazing community as well. To see her leave would be a huge disservice to the future of our school. Her dynamic, analytical, enthusiastic, and loving attitude help her conduct a course like no other professor I have ever had. I honestly believe Middlebury would not be the same without her, and clearly I am not alone.

    Audrey Tolbert ’13

  22. Leah Pickett

    I took Professor Affolter’s class my second semester at Middlebury, and I’ll echo the what most other students have posted in saying that her class profoundly changed the way I interpret the world around me. Her class has affected not only my outlook on education in the US, but my perception of issues of race and socioeconomic inequality in the world at large; Professor Affolter challenged us to view these issues in the context of larger societal trends, critically examining how basic issues in the education system also manifest themselves in every other sphere.
    I was also consistently impressed by Professor Affolter’s ability to turn the lecture-style segment of the class into a virtual discussion section. Each lecture, she arrived with an interesting activity or discussion topic, and made each lecture different. I appreciated the effort she put into making the in-class experience exciting and interactive.
    Professor Affolter is a passionate teacher whose class, I think, stands out in the educational experience of every one of her students, and I sincerely hope the college makes every effort to retain such a powerful intellectual force on this campus.
    – Leah Pickett ’13

  23. DaVia Walker

    I would like to affirm all that others have said before.

    Professor Affolter is an invaluable resource on Middlebury’s campus. I am an African American studies minor because the major is not offered and, quite frankly, she has been the most helpful in my endeavors to explore this field of research. As a sophomore, I briefly spoke to her about my interest in African American representation in the media and she later asked if we could schedule an appointment to talk about my interests. Out of that one conversation, she introduced me to the Critical Race Theory and not only did she introduce me to it, she also wrote out a list of books she thought would be most helpful for my subject of study, and also loaned me some of the books for the summer.

    Shockingly, after taking classes in the African American studies minor since freshman year I hadn’t heard of the authors she had recommended me. Prior to our meeting, I was only familiar with a few African American authors and none of whom were contemporary writers on current racial issues in the United States.

    Even more recently, Professor Affolter had taken it upon herself to meet with me this semester to discuss my project on the representation of African Americans in media and popular culture. I initially sent the e-mail to discuss my topic and she offered to meet with me regularly to track my progress. She has helped tremendously in finding academic resources pertaining to my topic and posing questions that challenge my own opinions.

    As a student, it’s very frustrating to attend a college that boasts “challenging students to participate fully in a vibrant and diverse academic community” but clearly doesn’t consider African American studies as integral to that community, as evidence by the lack of a department or even diverse faculty members at the college as a whole (Middlebury College Mission Statement). Professor Affolter is one of the few professors that sparks the diversity conversation on the Middlebury campus.

    With all of that said, I have yet to have her as a professor. I’m hoping to take a class with her my senior year as she has been an enormous help to enriching my education as a Middlebury student. Her honest, yet straightforward approach to issues of privilege and oppression is refreshing and encouraging, especially as a student of color. Although it might seem like the best economic decision, Middlebury would be at an even greater loss over all.

    – DaVia Walker ’12

  24. Jonathan Brach

    Dear President Liebowitz,

    I urge you to retain Professor Tara Affolter as a part of the Middlebury faculty. Like Jay, Education in America was one of the first classes I took here at Middlebury and now, halfway through my sophomore year, I still consider it the best class I have taken at Middlebury. My eyes were opened to the vast inequities that exist in America’s education system and I realized just how lucky I am to be at a stellar institution like Middlebury. For example, I had no idea that something as fundamental as school funding is based on property taxes. Since wealthier communities collect more money in property taxes, their schools are given a much larger budget than schools in poorer communities where less revenue is collected. This translates essentially to the fact that some high schools are able to prepare their students better for college than others. Coming from one of those poorer communities, every day, there are times where I feel less academically prepared than my fellow classmates who came from wealthier communities. I feel like I am always catching up, which is manageable, but especially in my science classes where a lot of the time the professor will ask, “How many of you have learned this before?” and I will always be one of the few students that does not raise their hand. After taking Professor Affolter’s class, however, I do not place the blame on my high school, our even the U. S. government. I place the blame on every person in America that has the capacity to do something to change our educational system for the better, including myself. In the spring, I will take an upper-level course in the education department for this reason, even though I am not an education minor. I feel that I have a responsibility to learn as much as I can as a Biology-German double major so that I can one day prepare students to face the academic rigors of college in a way that I sadly was not.

    I really do believe that education is the solution to every one of the world’s problems. We can teach students about the horrors of war and the disparities that exist in our society and then they will want to go out and solve these problems. Teaching a man to fish really does feed him for a lifetime and if he then spreads the knowledge that you have given him, the positive effects of your simple act will continue indefinitely. That is the power of education and just a little bit of what Professor Affolter has instilled in me. Thank you for hearing me out and I wish you the very best.

    -Jonathan Brach ’13

  25. Amy Schlueter

    Professor Affolter’s Education in America was one of the best classes I’ve ever taken at Middlebury. She is genuinely interested in the voices, stories, and opinions of all her students and takes the time to get to know each of them, which is not an easy feat in a lecture hall. Professor Affolter engages students to think critically about their own educational backgrounds as well as analyze our current school and community. She is the kind of teacher I would like to become one day, and it would be a shame if we as a college didn’t keep a professor of this quality around for as many students as possible to learn from her.

  26. Paloma Dugan

    Professor Affolter is by far one of the best educators I have had at Middlebury so far, and I have loved many of my teachers. I have never felt more welcome in a classroom or more deserving to express my ideas. She brings a rare enthusiasm to class EVERY day that just knocks you off your feet, time after time. She is certainly an extremely bright individual and knowledgeable about many issues, but even more she empowers her students in a lasting way. Even if I forget everything she talked about in my class with her (which I don’t see how I could because she presents material that leaves a lasting impression on your soul, heart, and mind) I am in gratitude to her for showing me a different way to see myself: as an individual all my own and with a story that matters. She guides students on their way to this realization and channels the energy produced from self-empowerment to make changes in our world where such power is silenced. I believe future students of middlebury deserve to experience Tara in the classroom for she is definitely a sight. Please do not deprive these students, they will feel what they are missing but not be able to place it. I am so lucky to have had her as a teacher.


  27. Christopher de la Cruz

    I first formally met Tara through an interview for a study on the topic of race in the classroom. I had signed up for the interview expecting a pretty simple 20-30 minute session, but was surprised to have a conversation lasting more than an hour with someone who I felt had genuine interest in all that I had to say. The conversation went beyond my own individual experience to how it compared to the experience of others and how we both felt the institution could change in assisting different issues. I went into the interview assuming that I would be a subject, but came out feeling like I was actually a part of a bigger cause.

    This current semester I have been fortunate enough to see Tara in action (in the classroom) where so many assumptions I didn’t even know I held have been intensely challenged. My entire understanding of how a high school classroom should work has been completely transformed in the past two months. I leave Tara’s class feeling empowered – feeling like I have the potential to make BIG change. This feeling is exactly why I came to Middlebury and the same feeling I hope to have when I graduate. Ready to truly take on the world. I do believe it is professors like Tara Affolter that are going to allow this to happen for myself and other students here at this college.

    Chris De La Cruz ’13

  28. Emily White

    I cannot tell you the many ways that Tara Affolter has positively impacted my life; it would simply take too long. Last fall, I arrived at Middlebury as a freshman and decided to enroll her in Education in the U.S. class and I was blown away. Tara Affolter has the unique gift of being able to not just teach, but inspire students. She is the perfect combination of passion and commitment and is an inspiration to all. Ask anyone who has ever taken one of her classes and I am sure that they would say the same. She has a remarkable way of leading students to come to conclusions and make discoveries by themselves. I thinks she perfectly embodies Khalil Gibran’s remark about teachers as those who “gives not of his wisdom but rather of his faith and his lovingness.” She is one who “does not bid you enter the house of his wisdom, but rather leads you to the threshold of your own mind.” While taking her class last year, as well as her Literacy Across Secondary Curriculum this fall, I have made so many self discoveries. Her classes challenges you to question stereotypes and examine your own biases. By taking her class, I became aware of unconscious biases I held as well as worked to redefine my perception of others. Tara Affolter is what inspired me to want to become a teacher. It is teachers like her who make a difference in students’ lives. It’s not just that she inspires you with her passion, but it is the faith and love she has for all of her students that makes them feel as if their thoughts and beliefs are valuable. I want to become a teacher because I feel like teachers like her are rare to come by and extremely valuable. I hope to someday do her legacy proud. Tara Affolter is representative of exactly the kind of professor Middlebury advertises as having and is one who we would be foolish to let go of. Not only is she an inspiration and an amazing teacher, but she broadens students’ perspectives and makes them step outside of their comfort zones. This is highly valuable to individual growth and something which is not given enough importance on this campus. I strongly urge you to keep professor Affolter.

  29. Matthew Yaggy

    I haven’t had as much experience with Tara as the other people who have posted here but I was lucky enough to have been paired with her during this year’s discussion of The Tortilla Curtain as part of the required first year reading. The novel by TC Boyle deals with stark images of humanity and immigration near the California-Mexico border. The themes and topics in the book could have easily created a hostile discussion environment. Tara was able to foster a valuable, provoking discussion that didn’t shy away from discussion of complicated, touchy objects. Even though I was only in a discussion with her for an hour, I can tell that she is one of the best professors we have available to us at the college. Middlebury needs teachers who can create safe spaces where discussion does not have to be reigned in and where viewpoints are thought over critically. Tara is able to do this and the college would be at quite a loss to lose her. Please reconsider.

  30. Adam Sawamura

    President Leibowitz,

    I realize that finances and logistics make it difficult to add another faculty position just because students petition to keep a professor, however…

    I echo everything that my fellow students have said about Professor Affolter thus far. On the course evaluation forms we complete at the end of each semester, we rank classes on their value to our education — if I had to pick one class that has been of the greatest value to my education, it would be Professor Affolter’s, hands down. Her classes encourage learning in the purest form, and it is a joy and an immense honor to participate in them.

    I’m currently taking a literacy class with her – a class that could easily be about just reading, writing, and teaching methods, which it is – but it is so much more than that; the application of her classes go beyond education. This class is about literacy, but it is founded upon a commitment to justice, understanding race and diversity, a call to action to confront societal inequality, and, dare I say it – love. Her classes have challenged me unlike any other to wrestle with issues of race, social justice, inequality, privilege, and power in our society. Her teaching empowers students to become comfortable with confronting and discussing these very uncomfortable topics.

    Professor Affolter’s classes are much more than lectures, readings, and discussion sections. Her classes are the ones that I call home about to discuss with my parents; the things we learn in her classes are the basis of conversations with friends over meals in the dining halls and are often what I stay up late thinking about when I go to bed at night. Like Lisa said, Professor Affotler’s class is a place where learning occurs for learning’s sake. I see the embodiment of all that Middlebury hopes to be in her classes.

    During her short time here, Tara has fit into the Middlebury community so naturally and so completely. Students, faculty, and the community at large have embraced her so no other. Please do everything you can to keep her here, President Leibowitz, and let us know what we can do too.

    Adam Sawamura ’13

  31. Aya Gallego

    Professor Affolter brings a diversity of ideas that would be greatly missed. Without her, Middlebury would probably not have as much motivation to explore controversial issues that we need to confront on this campus.

  32. Janet Rodrigues

    I have never had the pleasure to take one of Tara Affolter’s classes during my time at Middlebury. Nonetheless, the rare interactions I was lucky to have with her were tremendously influential and inspiring. Tara Affolter is an important ally for a great deal of people on our campus including myself and having to see her go is terribly disheartening. Tara’s contribution in the discussion of diversity has played a crucial role for this college and seeing her leave will continue to hinder the direction many have taken for more discussion and change around diversity. Tara is one of the few Professors at Middlebury who I have seen attend student-led events regularly and has continues to support and contribute to the empowerment of many students on our campus.

    I have seen the affect Tara Affolter has had on our community. It would be a huge loss for Middlebury to see her go. Please re-consider.

    Janet Rodrigues ’12

  33. Lisa Mulcahy

    One year ago, I had no idea who Tara Affolter was…and though I didn’t take her Methods class on a whim, it still felt like I had stumbled upon a hidden treasure tucked away in Twilight. I had already declared an Education Studies minor before taking Methods, but only for practical reasons (future employment and life after Midd). You could say that by last spring I had hit my mid-college slump, and taking Tara’s class was like being a freshman again. I was learning for the sake of learning, rather than just trying to get through another semester.

    Hands down, Tara was the best professor I’ve had at Middlebury. I didn’t have to search for the practicality in what I was learning. I wasn’t asking myself “What’s the point? How am I going to use this?” I’ve had my moments of floundering, and Tara’s class was a breath of fresh air. A very necessary one. Tara’s class made me realize why I was here, all of the places I can go, and who I can help along the way. Providing your students with all of that…well, it takes more than just luck.

    Learning how to teach means learning how to learn, and any student from any department could benefit from being in a class with Tara Affolter. There aren’t enough adjectives to describe Tara, as a teacher or as a person. But anyone who has interacted with her knows that.

    I consider myself lucky to have stumbled upon Tara Affolter, and I hope that I am not one of the last students at Middlebury to do so.

    -Lisa Mulcahy ’12

  34. Amalia Francisco

    In my two and a half years at Middlebury, Professor Affolter’s Education in America class last fall stands out not only for its profoundly thought-provoking and important subject matter, but much more so for Tara’s amazing ability to connect with students. Largely because of this class and this professor, I am considering pursuing education as a future career path, and without her encouragement and support I honestly do not think I would be headed in that direction. Tara knows everyone’s name within the first few days of class, remembers things about her students lives outside of the classroom, genuinely cares about their concerns and their development, and is always willing to sit and talk about anything with her students from an extension of a class discussion you found particularly interesting to your own career goals and choices. I came to Middlebury hoping to form relationships with my professors as I feel I have been able to do with Professor Affolter. Professors like her are what make this school and its faculty so wonderful and unique, and we should do our best not to let special people like her go.
    -Amy Francisco ’12

  35. H.Kay Merriman

    Tara’s Education in America class was my last class ever at Middlebury College, and it made a lasting impression on me. Tara epitomizes an innovative teacher and inspires and encourages the types of discussions that should engage Middlebury students in every class. I found her material and style to be so real and applicable that I left my last class feeling ready to apply these critical thinking skills to all fields where I saw injustice, not just education. Tara’s teachings also reminded me just how blessed Midd-kids are to receive the quality of education that we do. Whether students have a future in the field of education or not, I think that they will learn from Tara a way of thinking and analyzing that will serve them well throughout their college careers. My only regret is that I did not discover her classes earlier at Middlebury. Please consider keeping this inspirational woman on staff. She is such an asset to the College.

    H.Kay Merriman ’10

  36. Robert Carpenter-Israel

    I fully support Jay’s appeal to keep Professor Affolter at Middlebury. I had the pleasure of participating in Education in America the second semester of my freshman year and I now consider it to be the most influential and important class I have taken. Tara’s charismatic leadership in the classroom allowed students of all backgrounds to freely engage in debate and thought on controversial social topics that effect our education system. As a result of her enthusiasm and openness, students finished the semester with an appreciation for the importance of education and a significantly widened worldview. I hope the College reconsiders her value to the community as engaging Professors like Tara are what bring great value to a liberal arts education.

    Robby Carpenter-Israel
    Class of 2013

  37. Elizabeth Boyd

    I took Education in the US with Tara last fall and it was one of my favorite classes I have taken at Middlebury. I agree with all of the wonderful things that said about Tara, but I also want to add that her enthusiasm and energy encouraged me to become an Education minor. She has so much to offer to the Middlebury community and I would love to see her stay.

    Elizabeth Boyd ’12

  38. Anna Gallagher

    I also would love to see Tara stay. She is not only a wonderful teacher, she’s also a great person. In and outside of the classroom, Tara challenges people to reach beyond themselves, engage with the Middlebury community as a whole, and constantly asks you to step into other people’s shoes. She is the most vocal teacher I’ve ever had regarding diversity, and the education class I took with her taught me a lot about how important education is, and how we need to view our experience at Middlebury with a grateful but critical eye. I met her before I ever took a class with her, when she approached me about spoken word and Verbal Onslaught. Her willingness to be involved with my life surprised me, but also inspired me to continue on with my creative goals. I fully support the statements of those above, and believe that Tara is a vital addition to the college’s teaching staff. It simply doesn’t get any better than her.
    Anna Gallagher ’12

  39. Phoebe Carver

    Professor Affolter is one of those rare teachers who sees each student as an individual of great worth and treats them accordingly. I noticed during my Education in America class how carefully she observed each person and how hard she tried to understand what everyone was saying. Her personal approach to teaching helped to keep the class engaged and facilitated genuine interest in learning. I looked forward to discussion every week and feel that other Middlebury students should be given the opportunity to learn from this truly unusual professor.
    Phoebe Carver, ’13

  40. Cailin Ross

    Tara’s enthusiam and passion for what she teaches makes her the most special professor I’ve ever had. She is filled with compassion, knowledge, respect and humor that she brings to every class. We all think that in our Middlebury Community we’re diverse and tolerant, but I don’t think I knew, really knew, what that meant until I took her class. The way I view the world, politics, my education and myself was influenced completely. Our campus would be a better place if every student took a class with her, and the world would be a better place if they all became teachers, wielding Tara’s tolerance and understanding in classrooms around the globe.

  41. Alison Mehravari

    Having just graduated from Middlebury in May of 2010, I have recently had the pleasure of being able to reflect on my entire time at Middlebury. I enjoyed the large majority of the classes that I took while I was there, but there are a few classes that I took that resonate with me as being truly special. The very first class that Tara taught when she came to Middlebury, Education in USA (in the fall of 2009) is one of those classes. Being in her class was one of my experiences at Middlebury that I would not give up for anything.

    I originally signed up to take Education in the USA because I needed my NOR distribution requirement, and had heard that it was a generally interesting class. I had also heard that its usual professor, Jonathan Miller-Lane, was an excellent professor, so I was generally looking forward to the class. When I registered for it, however, I remember being chagrined to notice that it was not Jonathan Miller-Lane who would be teaching it, but rather some unknown person “Affolter, T”, about whom the MiddKid course evaluations had not heard of. I look back on this chagrin with great amusement; while I am sure that Professor Miller-Lane would have taught the course excellently, I am so glad that he went on leave because it afforded me the opportunity to take the class with Tara, and she was simply amazing.

    From the very first class with Tara, I knew that her course was going to be excellent. She was an engaging speaker, was friendly, but also clearly knew her stuff and wasn’t going to take crap from her students. It may have been her first class at Middlebury, but she was confident, friendly, and knowledgeable all at the same time – an impressive combination, especially for a new faculty member.

    I am sure that Education in the USA is a worthwhile class regardless of the instructor, but Tara made the class amazing. Many classes at Middlebury taught me things intellectually, but I can truthfully say that Tara’s class is the one class at Middlebury that has taught me most about the world, and has made me a better person, not just a smarter person. Through Tara, we tackled an incredible number of topics relating to the education system in the US, especially how race, class, gender, and other dividing factors have caused massive difficulty within the system. We discussed some really difficult topics that are divisive in society; Tara helped us get over the barriers to discussing them, and facilitated productive discussion, not just reaction.

    I learned so much from her. On the most personal level, I was able to look critically at my own education experience, see both the positive and negative aspects of the education system that I had personally experienced, and appreciate what I might have lacked in my education, helping me to be aware of what I still need to learn. Because of her, I also have an incredible appreciation for the difficulties that everyone faces in education. Many times the problems that she taught us about made me angry, and it was often frustrating when it seemed like there were no easy fixes to said problems, but that anger and frustrating incited a desire to work to make things better. She made me want to fight injustice in the educational system, and taught me that even if such inequality is not directed against me personally, the existence of such inequality affects me.

    Aside from the content of what she was teaching, her skills as a teacher were phenomenal. Class was a dreaded hour and 15 minutes long (my attention span lasts nowhere near that amount of time), and was right after lunch, meaning that it would have been easy to fall into a post-mealtime stupor. Unlike in most 75 minute classes, however, I rarely found myself looking at my watch wondering when her lecture was going to end – she was such an engaging speaker and captivated me with what she was saying. Additionally, she often interspersed lecture with smaller activities, either in groups or simply with our seated neighbors – these activities both gave us an opportunity to discuss concepts with our peers (and through them, I gained a much greater appreciate for the critical thinking skills of my classmates), but also gave small breathers from lecture, refreshing us for the next section.

    In addition to being an excellent teacher, Tara is a truly wonderful person (although I do not doubt that these two things go hand in hand). She is one of the most compassionate professors that I had while at Middlebury. Despite the fact that the class was at least 50 people, she got to know each one of us, and I believe truly cared about each of us. She was someone that I felt I could talk to both about questions from class and about questions from life. She was supportive of our questions, of the reasonings for them, and truly wanted us to learn and think about many of the difficult issues we were covering.

    I am a better citizen of this world because of Tara. Stereotypes are not easy things to overcome, no matter how much we might wish not to have them, but through Tara’s class, I am much more aware of how my education experience has shaped my view of the world. I feel more capable of recognizing stereotypes that I hold, understanding from where they come, and working to put them aside. This is not directly related to education – but it just goes to show how much she taught me.

    Tara’s final act in class is such a reflection on the kind of person and teacher that she is. At the end of the last day of our class, she read and handed out something that she had written for the entire class. She thanked us for being students who wanted to learn, who wanted to think, and then what she did was something I had never seen before. She had written something that she had noticed and appreciated about every student in the class. All 40 or 50 something of us. As she read these out one by one, I had such a feeling of community in that class. She cared so much, about all of us. By the end of her reading, she, I, and many others all had tears in our eyes.

    In short, I do not exaggerate when I say that Tara’s class, and my time with her, was one of my most worthwhile experiences at Middlebury. I fervently hope that she has the opportunity to remain as a professor at Middlebury, although I know that wherever she is, she will have an amazing effect on the students who are lucky enough to have her has a teacher.

    – Alison Mehravari, ’10

  42. Ethan Galiette

    I fully support Jay Saper’s letter. Tara Affolter has an uncanny ability to bring true enthusiasm to every class. Tara creates a learning environment in which students engage in lively discussion combining their real world experience with what they have learned in class. Tara helped me think about education from different perspectives in a way that challenged my opinions. I strongly believe that Tara needs to stay at Middlebury because she had a very positive impact on my education at Middlebury and I hope that other students have the opportunity to take a class with her in the future.
    -Ethan Galiette

  43. Dane Verret

    If we truly want to transform the Middlebury’s Campus into a place where diverse thought and cultures interest, Professor Tara Affolter’s presence is important of transformation.

    I know Tara Affolter as a fellow poet, an activist, and friend–and from the looks of the comments above, so do many students here at Midd. I believe that her background in poetry and activism contributes and will continue to contribute much to our community–because poets and activists are natural teachers. They speak and interact with people in ways meant to engage them, in ways that inspire new ways of thinking.

    Until this J-term coming, my educational experience with Professor Affolter has been solely outside the classroom. I view her as an ally more than a teacher: her experience in working with students of color has made her a source motivation and knowledge. When I need support or feedback on a project I know that she’ll do everything possible to help. I can go to her when I need support and honestly know that she’ll understand me. Rather than solely listen, she engages with you: how can we break down an issue? How can we teach people about it? What can we learn about ourselves from it?

    She is the type of Professor who explores and learns about an issue with you. Moreover, she constantly pushes you take an active role in your learning: Tara reminds you that she has faith in your abilities and so should you.

    I fully support Jay’s letter and keeping Tara Affolter at Middlebury. I encourage other students to do the same.

    -Dane Verret ’12

  44. Carolyn Sparkes

    Tara adds such a refreshing perspective to what is now a well rounded Education Studies department at Middlebury. I really enjoyed my experiences in Education classes at Middlebury, but craved the discussions of race, diversity, social justice and socioeconomic status in Education. Sociology of Education brought up many of these important discussion topics that must be included as we face education in our country today. However, I really wish I had the opportunity to take Tara’s social justice class that she has created for the Spring. I can’t tell you what a valuable addition her expertise on education adds to the staff of the Education Studies department at Middlebury. She has done an incredible job leading our student teaching seminar and has made me passionate about pursuing a career in education. As she has found such a valuable role to fill in our Middlebury community, I hope that Middlebury can find a position for her!

  45. Hallie Gammon

    On the recommendation of two friends who had taken the class the previous semester, I decided to take Education in the U.S. in my last semester at Middlebury, though I hadn’t taken any other EDST classes while there. Since I was writing my thesis at the time, Professor Affolter graciously agreed to let me audit the class. If I could go back and do it again, I would have taken her class in an earlier semester — I’ve never actually been jealous of a class’s assignments, but her papers and projects were so well devised and meaningful that I regretted not having the time to be fully enrolled in the class. Still, of all the amazing classes I took at Middlebury, I looked forward to her lectures, and especially discussion sections, like no other class. I often told people how ironic I thought it was that my favorite class was the one I wasn’t even getting a grade for. I did my readings for it before any of my other work, because, as one of the earlier commenters pointed out, Professor Affolter made our class feel like we had a purpose.

    I can’t overestimate the impact her class had on me. Six months before graduation, I had no idea what I wanted to do after college. A few weeks into the course, I started to seriously consider the idea of teaching. I’m currently employed at my former (private) high school and considering going to grad school in Education Studies and/or becoming certified to teach in public schools. Before that class, I couldn’t have articulated what the term “social justice” meant; now I’m designing an elective on the subject, inspired by Professor Affolter’s class, that I hope to teach in the spring. No other class I took inspired so many conversations with people who weren’t even in the class with me, or kept me up at night, or made me question what I believed and how I was living my life. Of all my classes at Midd, this is the only one that I can say with complete certainty has made me a better person, not just a smarter one.

    If Professor Affolter wants to remain at Middlebury, Middlebury would be doing itself a disservice not to keep her. She challenges her students to think outside the Midd bubble, supports their identities instead of asking them to check them at the door, and, though I still don’t fully understand exactly what this means, undeniably embodies a pedagogy of love in her classroom. We are all lucky to have been her students, and many more Middkids should have this opportunity.

    Hallie Gammon ’10

  46. Steven Barash

    Tara completely changed my view of the way classrooms in this country ought to operate. Being in class with her has opened my eyes to what it means to be a student and what it will mean to me to become a teacher. Her profound understanding of the issues presented by our education system and her unwavering commitment to social awareness and action are an asset to Middlebury College that will not be replaceable. When I took her class last fall, I was impressed with her ability to relate to us, her willingness to learn as well as teach, and her dedication to the integrity of our educations and those of our own students. Losing Tara Affolter would be a serious blow to our Education Studies department and Middlebury College as a whole. I strongly recommend keeping her.

    Steve Barash ’13

  47. Adam Batista

    Tara Affolter is the rare teacher who has impacted my life far beyond the classroom. Her undoubted respect for me as a person has challenged me to rethink who I am and from where have I come. She teaches about privilege and equality, but her methods have inspired me to believe that I can make an impact on others, just as she has done for me. With her support, I know I have become a better person. I would like to take this opportunity to thank her one more time. Thank you, Tara.

    Adam Batista ’13

  48. Maggie Moslander

    I took Education in America with Professor Affolter last spring, and wholeheartedly agree with both Jay’s letter and the comments above. Tara is an invaluable asset to Middlebury College, creating a safe, supportive community both in and out of the classroom. Though I’m not an Education Studies minor and have only taken one class with her, Tara quickly became a professor from whom I felt absolutely comfortable soliciting advice, getting a different perspective, or simply chatting about life at Middlebury and beyond. She cares deeply about her students, and challenges us to think differently about who we are; while she acknowledges and validates the different knowledge and backgrounds her students bring to the table, she also pushes us further, guiding us with important insights and never letting us be too comfortable or entrenched in one belief or system of beliefs. I have told many other students, regardless of major, that taking a class with Professor Affolter is one of the best decisions they can make in the course of their four years here, and I feel privileged to have her as one of my professors. I’m looking forward to taking her course “Social Justice in Education” in the spring, and hope that she will remain at Middlebury to continue her important work for some time to come.

    -Maggie Moslander ’11

  49. Richard Adler

    I had Professor Affolter last J-term as the coordinator with with J-term program at the Middle School. She has a very practical approach to teaching and exemplifies the best of what Middlebury professors have to offer. Many times have I heard and said the phrase, “You need to take a class with Affolter before you graduate!”

    R.J. Adler ‘11.5

  50. rtrivedi

    Having never been in a class with Tara, or spent more than 10 hours with her in my life, and simultaneously considering her one of my closest, most trusted, most intellectually challenging friends speaks volumes to the person that she is, in my opinion. I met Tara at a Commons Dinner, and was immediately drawn to her, despite our obviously clashing perspectives on race, and fundamentally different interests. She is a wonderfully open, completely trustworthy, genuinely intelligent, and extraordinarily unique individual, and while I can’t speak for her work at the CCSRE or even within the Education Studies department, I can speak to the notion that she is one of the many people who make Middlebury College a community.

  51. Ian Trombulak

    I had Tara for the first time in the second semester of my Sophomore year. I truly believe that no other professor at Middlebury could take a 3:00 class in Twilight and make it my absolute favorite class to attend, bar none. Jay already spoke volumes about Tara’s unique and valuable worldview, and I echo his sentiments that she has profoundly changed the way he thinks and acts. More than that, however, Middlebury College needs Tara Affolter because the way she runs her classroom should be the standard by which all professors, in all academic domains, are judged.

    Tara respects her students more than any other professor I’ve had at Middlebury (and I’ve had some great ones). In no other classroom do I feel so strongly that I am part of a collective — that as a class, we have been tasked with a semester long goal of uncovering the hidden truths and themes within the course’s big ideas. While Tara is our steadfast captain, it never feels like she is simply putting us through the motions of answering questions that she already knows the answer to. Indeed, the passion she brings to the classroom makes it feel like she is discovering just as much as we are every time she teaches.

    It almost feels selfish to try to keep such a talent as Tara Affolter all to ourselves, when the message she teaches and her contagious passion is so desperately needed in many parts of the country. However, to let her go would be a tremendous disservice to all future learners at Middlebury College. Tara epitomizes the type of professor Middlebury should strive to employ. Therefore, letting her go would be antithetical to the kind of institution Middlebury strives to be. My Middlebury experience would not have been the same without her, and I consider myself lucky to have sat in her classroom.
    -Ian Trombulak ’12

  52. Rachael Jennings

    I am an education studies minor, and a senior at the College, and I would like to say that Professor Affolter is, hands down, one of the best professors I have had the opportunity to learn from. She is engaging, thoughtful, caring, thought-provoking, challenging, and inspiring. Her commitment to teaching and learning in and outside of the classroom is incredible. She has such a wealth of experiences and interactions from which she has learned, and she never stops helping provide her students with these experiences: through texts, lectures, discussions, guest speakers, classroom visits. She has arched her curriculum in such a way that the specific goals she makes and the questions that we, as students, have come out answered and reached; her class is full of direction and purpose. Like Friere believes in genuine, open discourse between teachers and students, and as he stresses that teachers be teacher-students and student-teachers, Professor Affolter cultivates a sense of mutual learning and exploration in her classroom, and validates all of the knowledge that we bring together collectively, while still providing her rich understandings and perspective. Her insight and research on diversity and diverse learning perspectives is intriguing and important, and I feel has been invaluable to the students in her class. With complete honesty, she confronts issues and helps us confront them within and around ourselves. She is a living example of an exceptional teacher, and I hope that students will continue to have the chance to learn from her. Middlebury College needs more professors like her.

  53. Cody Gohl

    Tara Affolter has changed my life, and I don’t say this lightly. On a whim, I decided to take her class, Literacy Across the Secondary Curriculum, this fall. It has proven to be one of the better decisions that I have made as a student and as a person. I have never had a teacher like Tara, who is both fiery and understanding, engaging and compassionate, passionate and realistic. She pushes you to become the best that you can be; she’s not going to hold your hand because she knows that that kind of teaching serves no one, but she will give you the tools necessary to discover for yourself how to not only change your life, but how to change the world. If all teachers at Middlebury were like Tara, I can only imagine how enthusiastic and motivated to better the world our students would be. She is a gift and there is no one that can replace her presence on this campus. I fully support Jay Saper’s letter and I know that I am not the only one. She has not just taught student, she has touched lives; to lose her would be a grave mistake.

  54. Elma Burnham

    I took Education in the U.S. with Tara Affolter in my first semester at Middlebury; spending time with her and the class in Twilight was comforting for me because it confirmed that Middlebury is where I belong. I want to keep Tara here because I want all incoming to freshmen to feel that way upon entering Midd and to set their standards for professors at this competitive liberal arts school just as high. It was refreshing to get this feeling from a first-year professor who clearly cared, not just for me, but for the Middlebury student body. Affolter wants us all to understand our place in society, what’s wrong with it, and what we can do about it. We need to keep Tara, and professors like her here, to change our perspectives and align our priorities. As a member of Institutional Diversity Committee, an Education Minor, and a regular student, I fully support Jay’s comments. We should all be proud of our involvement in this movement to protect the goals of this college by keeping Professors like Tara.
    -Elma Burnham ’13

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