Feedback from Students

In the spring of 2019, I was nominated for the Provost’s Outstanding Teaching Award at CCNY. What follows is an anonymized selection of the letters of support that my students submitted on my behalf.

At the bottom of this page, you can find a summary of my student evaluation survey results.

Letters of Support

I am writing in support of Alec Magnet’s application for the Provost’s Outstanding Teaching Award. I have never had a teacher who inspires and nurtures my skills and my love of literature more than Professor Magnet. I have been privileged to be a student in his 19th Century American Literature class this semester and even more privileged to come to know him as a mentor and intellectual role model.

Professor Magnet is a masterful teacher. The students in our class arrived with different levels of proficiency. Some students were confident readers, natural writers and rigorous thinkers, others were cultivating these skills. Yet Professor Magnet deftly tailors his lessons to meet the individual needs of all students while fostering a sense of community and warmth in the classroom. He uses a variety of pedagogical techniques to create this classroom magic. One technique Professor Magnet uses to great effect is peer workshopping. Through the groups, students come to know each other as writers and thinkers, contributing to the collaborative intellectual environment of the classroom. Each student, regardless of his or her skills, has developed a sense of ownership over the material. He makes sure that each student feels accomplished, heard, respected, and that each one of us both learns from and teaches our peers.

Professor Magnet is as inspiring and helpful outside class as he is in class. He is selfless with his time and has met with me frequently. Early on in the semester, I came to Professor Magnet’s office to discuss an idea for an independent project on Walt Whitman’s poetry. I was awed by the breath and depth of Professor Magnet’s knowledge. I came to him with an inchoate idea: a jumble of concepts and problems whose connections I couldn’t articulate. He was able to help me find ways to articulate what was going on in my head, give it words and shape it into a coherent idea. Although CCNY is a large school, he makes each student feel as if they have a personal mentor.

What I admire most about Professor Magnet is that there seems to be little separation between his scholarly and pedagogical practices. Each informs the other. He is the model of a warm, humane scholar and teacher. CCNY is fortunate to have him and I wholeheartedly and enthusiastically recommend him for the Provost’s Outstanding Teacher Award.

I am writing this letter in support of Professor Alec Magnet and why I firmly believe he is an amazing educator. I had the privilege to be in two CCNY courses that Professor Magnet taught; Gothic Literature in the summer semester of 2018 and Selected Topics in American Literature in the fall semester of 2018. His enthusiasm and support had made my last two semesters memorable. It helped me grow tremendously as a literature major, writer, and a human being. The curriculums that he structured into his courses expanded our knowledge and views on the world that we continue to experience and reflect on day by day. Our class witnessed how he creates a perfect blend of classic and contemporary in the world of literature in lessons and class discussions. Professor Magnet poured out constant compassion and encouragement in our classes to embrace our own creativity without any judgment and weld it into our literary dissection and writing. Honest dialogues are always welcomed around him, which we always appreciated. Selfcare and awareness of one’s mental health are two practices that have been discussion topics in his classes which helped open my eyes to many things.

Professor Magnet has distinguished himself as an exceptional professor that I greatly look up to. Academic education is on a developmental journey and navigated by many educators throughout history. Many have come together to build up teaching pedagogies to be centered around the individuality of students. This is what you experience in the classroom setting and support that Professor Magnet instills. You have a voice in his class. His innovative teaching inspires me to further develop my own style as I continue to move forward in my next steps with teaching. As I have felt encouraged to mix my own passions of poetry and music within my work in his courses, I desire to share that opportunity with my own future students and their own passions.

I will state that in my CCNY and 6-year college experiences, Professor Alec Magnet has been one of the best professors that I have ever had. He is an invaluable teacher that deserves to be treasured always. And I sincerely hope that his efforts will be acknowledged and rewarded.

I am writing to you today in regard to Alec Magnet’s nomination for The Outstanding Teaching Award. I hold Alec in the highest esteem, both as an educator, as well as on a personal level, so I was honored when he asked if I could write to you on his behalf. The City College website states that the intent of this award is to encourage and celebrate individual excellence in teaching. I could not think of another educator in my experience who is more deserving of such recognition.

Alec is a passionate educator who works hard to get to know each student under his guidance. He understands that this is necessary as each student has different needs and styles of learning. He created a system for in-class reading, where instead of a student being picked to read a large section of the material, each student is asked to read only one line before the next is asked to continue reading. It is an excellent way of ensuring students stay engaged during in-class discussion, as nobody wants to be embarrassed by being lost when their turn comes around. He is also great at creating small scaffolding assignments during the lead up to larger essays. These assignments, done in class, help the student through the brainstorming phase and ease the burden of writing tremendously. He also encourages peer-review, and builds it into the classroom time, as a means of improving student editing, a crucial and often overlooked step in student writing.

The first class I signed up for that was instructed by Alec was Intro to Literary Study. We studied a wide variety of literature in that class. Everything from Emily Dickenson, to the Harlem Renaissance, to Junot Diaz (a work in which Professor Magnet created a 50-page reading companion to help the reader through many obscure references). No matter the genre, Alec displayed a complete mastery of the subject matter and an ability to thoughtfully react to student responses to the work we were reading. His quick wit, intellect, and above all else, his sense of humor makes his classroom the most comfortable learning environment I have ever been a part of. His informal style relaxes the student and fosters an environment where one feels free to express their ideas without the fear or intimidation many students feel in the face of their instructors.

Alec is not only providing the tools for student success inside the classroom, but outside as well. In terms of accessibility, he goes above and beyond. He not only keeps consistent office hours during the semester, but he will try his best to accommodate any one of his students, as best as his schedule will allow, should they not be available during that time. In cases where meeting is impossible, he is always accessible by email. He does this despite high demands on his time between teaching at two schools while also pursuing his doctorate because he is dedicated to his students and cares about their success. During my first semester at City College, I was nervous and unsure if my writing would be deemed acceptable after transferring from a small community college. In an effort to improve my skills I visited Professor Magnet during his office hours. I found him to be warm, engaging, and a reassuring voice during a period in my life where self-doubt could have crippled me. His words of advice and encouragement filled me with the confidence I needed. It was an important moment in my educational journey and I will never forget it. I steadily visited Alec throughout that semester, as much for his company as for his advice, and I cherish those memories of our discussions in his tiny, shared office. Over the rest of my time at City I stayed in contact with Alec, jumped at the chance to take another class with him, and recommended him to more students than I can count as I knew he would embrace the chance to mentor these young scholars in the way he did me. I consider it my privilege to be able to count Alec Magnet as an influence in my education. His dedication to his craft, as well as his students, is second to none and deserving of recognition. He is a champion for equal rights, a man who possesses a great deal of empathy, and The City College of New York is better for having him on their staff. He is a credit to the school I proudly call my alma mater. Thank you for considering Alec for this prestigious honor.

I was a student in Alec Magnet’s Spring 2011 class, English 35700: Representative Victorian Writers. I am now a PhD Candidate in the CUNY Graduate Center’s English Program, specializing in medieval literature and contemporary children’s and Young Adult literature. Alec was an excellent teacher, and I whole-heartedly support his nomination for the Provost’s Faculty Award.

The discussions in Alec’s class were always lively and fascinating. Alec has a way of getting every student involved in the discussion, and I’ve drawn on his example for my own teaching. His palpable excitement for the texts and ideas he was teaching played a part in the class’s interest in the material, and he structured discussions with plenty of groupwork so that we discussed the texts in small groups. By popular demand from us, his students, Alec adjusted the syllabus to give us extra time for discussion of some texts when we were too invested in the ideas to move on.

Alec pushed us all out of our comfort zones in terms of theory as well. We read the standard Victorian texts, but Alec supplemented that with lectures and in-class reading about theoretical approaches that enhanced our understanding of and engagement with the texts beyond the norm for a class of that level. He also encouraged us to explore ideas and theories on our own, and he helped us pursue those interests via extensive feedback on our written assignments and enthusiastic discussion during office hours. This had a significant impact on my own growth as a scholar of English literature.

My final paper for Alec’s class was an examination of Tennyson’s attitude toward death in In Memoriam, with an added discussion of J.K. Rowling’s attitude toward death in the Harry Potter series. Alec guided me towards sources that discuss death in literature, death in psychology, death in religion, and Tennyson’s relationship with Arthur Hallam. In my first semester of grad school, I revised and expanded that paper for my Introduction to Doctoral Studies class. I look back at my undergrad work on that paper and Alec’s enthusiastic support as important foundations to my engagement with children’s literature on a scholarly level.

For all these reasons, I think Alec Magnet is an excellent candidate for the award.

Alec Magnet is the best professor I had during my time at City College. I first met him in my freshman year in his class, The Great American novel. In this course, we studied American literature, but what made it really special was the discussions Professor Magnet facilitated. We would talk about propaganda, sexuality, and censorship in reference to the things we read. It was the first time in my life that I was able to talk freely about my thoughts and opinions in a classroom.

Professor Magnet is the type of professor that truly wants his students to understand what he’s teaching. That same Great American Novel course was a nighttime class that ran until late. Professor Magnet, on more than one occasion, would stay behind with students who had additional questions. Once, he stayed after class with me for hours to explain a concept I didn’t understand. There was no idea that was deemed stupid, no judgement at all, just the simple desire to help me grasp the concept of the novel that I was having trouble with.

Professor Magnet’s patience and care for his students and curriculum is something rare among all the professors I had studied under during my time in undergrad. I would check every semester to see what courses he would be teaching and if I could take it. By the end of my undergraduate career, I was lucky enough to be in his class a total of three times. If anyone deserves an award for being an outstanding professor, it’s Alec Magnet.

I am writing with regard to Professor Alexander Magnet’s nomination for this award. I took Representative Writers of the United States: The Nineteenth Century with Professor Magnet last spring, for which he built an amazing syllabus that showcased exceptional writers and important themes from that time. What ensued was honest and engaging discussion about the literature, about what worked for us and what didn’t, with Professor Magnet seamlessly facilitating our discussion in the most thoughtful way.

Professor Magnet’s class discussions encouraged studying literature through a queer lens rather than just through gender and race, which he asked that we discuss “with maturity and respect”. The overlap of these topics provided a whole new perspective to many of the works, even making Moby Dick more interesting to some, and would surely carry on through the students’ other coursework. The course was perfectly balanced between male and female authors and, coupled with the helpful historical context that Professor Magnet consistently offered, provided a well-rounded and engaging view of the subject matter. I actually loved his syllabus so much that I personally asked him for book recommendations at the end of the semester for further reading, which I don’t often do. He clearly displayed a strong knowledge of critical theory and great taste in literature, both characteristics that allow for innovative syllabi and education practices.

As a professor, he was highly personable and respectful, and never seemed condescending to us as students. Nineteenth century literature is not always something that college-aged students would enjoy, but he managed to show up to our 9:30AM class every time with a great sense of humor, positive energy, and boundless knowledge to share. I could not recommend him enough as a professor and as a nominee.

It is my pleasure to recommend to you Alexander Magnet for a Teaching Award at the City College of New York. In my college career, I have taken two classes instructed by Professor Magnet, both of which have proven to have been immensely informative and memorable.

In my experience in his classes, Professor Magnet has shined as an exceptional educator amongst the faculty of the City College of New York. His cheerful energy and outstanding teaching style were exceedingly beneficial to me, as well as to all the students of which he has taught. His focus on intensive reading, his flexible student-centered style of teaching, as well as his focus on truly enhancing his students’ writing, has proven to have been one of the most educative experiences I have ever had at CCNY. The techniques of which he has shared to me in writing, I still utilize today, and I will continue to do so into my professional life. As a former student, I highly recommend Professor Magnet for his strong skills as an educator as well as his inspiring demeanor, which continues to encourage me to this day.

I’m writing on behalf of Alec Magnet in regards to the Provost’s Outstanding Teacher Award. As a literary man, Alec’s passion and knowledge surpasses that of any other English professor I’ve encountered at City College. I found his classes to be enthralling and fascinating simply because of the fervor with which he taught them. I’ve taken two classes with Alec: 19th Century Representative Writers of the United States and Gothic Literature, and they were both outstanding and enriching. Not many people can make Moby Dick fun and exciting, but Alec somehow manages to do so. He also has the ability to successfully generate very interesting debates in the classroom and evoke insightful comments even from the shyest of students. There is never a dull or boring class with Alec Magnet, and people make an effort to complete all of his required readings so that they can participate in his evocative debates. As a young woman, I greatly appreciate that he takes the time at the beginning of every semester to outline his no-nonsense policies regarding sexual harassment. He is always sensitive to his students needs and he encourages open and honest discussion in the classroom. He is humorous and engaging, and very popular among his students.

Alec is not only a down-to-earth, approachable, and supremely passionate instructor, he is also always available if his students need him. I remember on one occasion I discussed with him my anxieties regarding graduation and the possibilities of applying to grad school and he spent a good hour reassuring me, telling me about his own personal experiences going through higher education, and giving me advice that I value very much. It is clear that he goes above and beyond for his students, and it’s extremely refreshing to see an instructor who actually cares about his students’ well-being and success. I cannot recommend a better, more dedicated, or more deserving person for this award.

I had the privilege of taking Alexander Magnet’s 19th Century American Literature course in the Spring semester, 2017. He made the class interesting by showing his passion for works like Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, and always challenged the class to look deeper at the texts we read, such as Emily Dickinson’s choice of words, and quirky punctuations. Furthermore, he kept a safe classroom environment, allowing students like myself to speak openly about their thoughts, questions, and concerns, while genuinely invested in whatever we had to say.

Outside of class, Professor Magnet has become a great mentor of mine, setting aside time to assist me with my own personal projects, like college essays for graduate school, and willing to write reference letters on my behalf. He checks in with me regardless of how busy he may be and gives the best advice, using his own experiences to encourage me to further my endeavors as a young adult.

That is why I believe if anyone deserves to be recognized as an educator, it’s Professor Magnet. He not only takes his work seriously, but he cares about his students, and wants those who cross his path to do well. Before having him as a teacher, there were few other teachers I felt comfortable speaking with, that I felt took my general issues about life, school, and worries into consideration. Then, Magnet happened.

In the three years I have been attending City College, I have had the pleasure to have Professor Alexander Magnet twice. I most recently was in his course for Selected Topics in American Literature Fall 2018. Professor Magnet goes beyond the “call of duty”. He always made sure he was accessible via email or office hours, and responded in a very timely manner. He was a fair and open professor who detailed his class expectations clearly. His feedback and comment on my work were not only fair, but provided opportunities for me to strengthen my writing. Among my fellow peers, it is common knowledge that Professor magnet has a passion for teaching and learning from his students. He has the unique ability to make class concepts interesting while presenting them clearly.

Professor Magnet ensured that each class was entertaining, interactive and filled our heads with knowledge. His course readings and class materials were not only interesting but represented authors of various cultures, genders and backgrounds. His class was a safe, welcoming space filled with knowledgeable debates and class conversations. As a future educator myself, I found concepts of Professor Magnet’s teaching style to be helpful and engaging. He allowed each person in the room to have a voice at all times, and gave the opportunity for us to guide debate sessions. Professor Magnet knew each and every student by name which made me feel seen, cared for and respected. I believe with great confidence that professor Magnet is an amazing educator and rightfully deserves a Teaching Award.

Student Evaluations

Below, you will find a chart summarizing my student evaluations over the years. I’ve selected what I see as the three most relevant question for each survey that I have. (Some semesters, the school didn’t collect data; some I never recieved) You can see a pdf of this summary here. Feel free to email me if you’d like the whole collection. (Be forewarned, though: it’s more than 300 pages long and about 100mb big.)

The City College of New York, CUNY

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Marymount Manhattan College

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John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY

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