Education in America has taken a hit since the coronavirus pandemic took many students and educators out of the classroom and placed them in front of computers for a semester of online learning. While teachers have done their best to keep students motivated during this difficult time, students are now returning the favor by surprising teachers with messages of gratitude.
“I wanted to make sure my professors knew they were appreciated for all the hard work they do,” Faith Williams, a student at San Diego State University, tells Yahoo Life. “This teacher appreciation trend kept showing up on my For You page on TikTok, and each video was so moving to see teachers and professors break down in front of their students. It really showed me how much teachers need to be shown appreciation during this time.”
Williams’s own video surprising her communication professor Michael Rapp gained viral attention on the short-form video app from viewers who commented to share that it made them cry. The student says that the moment was well deserved.
“[Rapp] really touches his students’ lives and he is loved across campus. As you can tell by the comments on my TikTok, so many students shared their love and appreciation for Master Rapp [as students call him],” Williams says, referring to a number of users who mentioned their own experiences at SDSU in Rapp’s class. “His reaction was so sweet and heartfelt. You could tell he really needed it.”
Williams explains that she organized the surprise via a mass email to her classmates, encouraging them to make their own signs and instructing them on when to show them off. As seen in the video, it was perfectly timed with the professor bidding farewell to the class as the semester wrapped up.
“You’ll always be able to find me. So good luck with your final, good luck with everything going on in your life,” Rapp says in the video, before going speechless at the sight of the signs reading, “Thank you,” and sniffling through tears. “Sorry if I got a little emotional right there, but thank you, thank you, thank you. I hope I had as much of an influence on you as you just did right there for me... That’s something that I will definitely recall forever and will be lasting and I will be bragging about that to as many people as I can.”
Rapp didn’t respond to Yahoo Life’s request for comment.
Numerous other educators on the receiving end of these teacher appreciation videos on TikTok displayed the same reaction.
“Oh my gosh. Oh you guys are gonna make me cry,” Denise Hopper, a precalculus teacher at Long Reach High School in Columbia, Md. said in a video posted by Jessica Ortiz. The 16-year-old tells Yahoo Life that it was an important gesture after a difficult semester.
“Mrs. Hopper is absolutely the kindest teacher and we all sort of felt bad since nobody really turned their cameras on in class and a lot of us barely spoke,” Ortiz admits. “Online school has been hard for everyone on both ends and we wanted to make sure that Mrs. Hopper knew that we all appreciated everything she was doing in order for us to learn.” Hopper didn’t immediately respond to Yahoo Life’s request for comment.
Williams echoes that sentiment acknowledging that “Zoom is just not the same. Many times, teachers are left to teach to blank screens when students don’t turn on their cameras.”
And although these surprises have a special impact on the teachers, Williams says that she’ll also remember the sentimental moment forever.
“It was so moving to know that students could change a professor’s life with just one gesture and one sign showing our appreciation,” she says. “I will never forget this. It was so wholesome and I was so happy to see our professor know he is appreciated.”
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