A group of Wake Forest University staff members of varying professions, ages and backgrounds gathered over lunch on Monday, March 6, 2017 to discuss the value of the liberal arts and how educators shape and influence our lives.

We began by sharing personal stories about our favorite teachers. Some of us shared a particular moment or instance in which a teacher took a special interest in us, challenged us to grow and learn further, or created an atmosphere through their own quirks (ukulele playing, wearing yardsticks in their belt loops) that made learning fun and exciting. We discussed how a lot of learning can occur outside of a classroom, and we agreed that the biggest lessons we’ve learned from our teachers are about understanding and appreciating each other and not about the Pythagorean Theorem. We quickly realized the influence of educators, but we also recognized that not everyone may have had an impactful teacher in his or her life.

We realized a common thread across all of our stories: the best teachers seek to educate the whole person, which is a concept central to Wake Forest’s liberal arts focus. Our teachers viewed us as individuals worthy of their attention, encouragement and praise. This holistic approach to teaching is what makes the liberal arts so valuable. There is value in the creativity, flexibility, critical thinking and problem solving that comes with learning about a wide range of concepts. However, a focused path of learning in alignment with one’s passion is valuable too.

The conversation concluded with all participants sharing what they took away from the conversation, and some clear themes emerged:

  • Learning is a lifelong journey in which we all continue to have the potential to grow.
  • It’s up to us to encourage and support one another in this process, much like our teachers once did.