When I first began my “adventure” as a college student, during my second semester I met a professor that would change my life for the better. It isn’t very common that students become friends with their professors and the professors’ families, but that is exactly what would happen to me.
This professor was a history professor at LSU-E, Dr. Tony Baltakis. When I first started his class, I just went to class and loved it because he made history interesting; I also liked how “if you tried,” he’d “work with you,” and try to help you as much as he could. Other than that, we were just a student and professor, nothing unusual. Until one day, the elevator was out of order and I needed it due to my physical limitations and the fact I used a rolling backpack (which doesn’t mix too well with stairs,) “Dr. B” as we often called him, saw me as he was heading to the staircase and asked if I needed him to “carry my bag and me,” to which I laughed and told him, “I got two working legs, Dr. B, but if you could bring my backpack for me, that’d be great.” Turns out his wife, Mrs. Donna, had Polio and had limitations as well, so he seemed to have a “soft spot” for those with special needs. After that, when he’d see me around campus, he’d joke and pick at me, “there’s my girlfriend,” to which I would pick back, “you better watch out, Dr. B, I’m gonna tell Mrs. Donna on you,” hile laughing.
His birthday was the end of the fall semester in December, and I got my mom to bake him some yummy treats (to share with his family if he chose- after all, it was mainly for his birthday) but Mom put in extras for Christmas treats, as well (Yes, I know, My mom is pretty awesome LOL.)
Dr.B’s teaching methods involved putting his powerpoints up online for the students to print out or to use their computers to add in notes he gave in class that wasn’t included in the power points, he also would review what material our tests would cover, he’d go over the guidelines to the way he wanted our book reports done, and he had an “open door,” office policy- if students had questions, he’d allow them to ask in class or if they were “Easily embarrassed,” after class/ during his office hours. As long as he saw students giving effort, he’d “work with them,” offering bonus points for certain things that encouraged learning (museums and such,) or for attending the performing arts performances through LSU-E that He and his wife were in charge of.
He only had a couple of “pet peeves”: playing with phones during his class, heads down on the desk, or some falling asleep during his class. I only saw one or two students get tossed out of class when the pet peeves happened. Dr. B would often say that he didn’t mind students debating if they had a difference of opinion, but I saw plenty of times he’d get on his “soapbox,” as we called it; I think some students would debate him just so he’d get on the soapbox and waste the class period.
Whether it be him on a “soapbox” rant or his actual history lesson, it kept my attention either way. He wasn’t like some professors who try to force their views down their students’ throats; being a professor of History; he’d present both sides and the history behind them. It was really interesting.
To Be completely honest, before college, I wasn’t at all fascinated with history, but after the first history in college, with Dr. B as my professor, I went on to take 2 other history courses that he also taught(1 of which wasn’t required for my degree.)
A year or so later, I had to go up to St Louis, Missouri to have halo traction and back surgery
for my severe Kypho-Scoliosis (159-degree curve, 18-20% lung capacity, and my ribs had twisted around my spine.) I spent 7.5 months in halo traction and 2 or so months for surgery and recovery in St Louis; Miles away from my home, family, friends, and loved ones. Dr. B and Mrs. Donna often wrote to me either letters in the mail, email, or through Mrs. Donna’s Facebook; following my updates on my health progress and such, sometimes they were also my “pick me up” when feeling down or upset and would give me encouragement or advice.
When I got home after surgery and resumed my college courses, upon seeing me for the first time since I had my surgery, Dr. B, hugged me and was amazed at how“straight” I looked now and that I had “gotten taller.”
Even though I am no longer at the college that he teaches, we still keep in touch. Even when I struggle with courses and have moments of doubt and wanting to give up, he and Mrs. Donna, are there to encourage me, support me, and remind me that maybe I can do my dreams differently. I am pretty sure (actually I know for a fact,) if I straight up quit college altogether, he and Mrs. Donna would be on my case like a lot of my family and friends, to which I appreciate and love them for. Mrs. Donna often asks about me and college and reminds me, “Dr. B and I want you to get that degree!” I just love having my own little cheering section in my life outside of family (Family kind of has to support you. lol.)
Dr. B, about a year ago, got into a motorcycle accident and got badly injured. Upon seeing that on Facebook, I was instantly heartbroken and upset that something like that could happen to such a loving, great guy like Dr. B.
When I had time and a ride to bring me (even though I drive, I been having more increased pain lately due to some rods from my surgery being broke-since then have been fixed with new surgery Aug. 2019,) I went spend an hour or two visiting with him. It was so good to see him, even though he had a cast and looked like he was in pain.
If anyone is deserving of a Teaching Excellence Award, it is Dr. B.(Actually he deserves alot of awards and praise not just for teaching!) He not only makes history enjoyable and interesting, but he taught me a lot of other things too: compassion and empathy for others, to help your fellow man or woman, not to “count myself out,”/ to have confidence in myself despite my limitations, the list could go on forever, but you all get the idea; he’s a dang-great professor and an even greater family-friend.
I love you, Dr. B and Mrs. Donna! Thanks for being such an amazing part of my life. PS we are due for a catch up visit. Lets do a dinner get together soon; My fiance and I can cook and we can just chill out and catch up! It’ll be fun! ❤ Anyway Love yall so much and have a great day and hope this makes yall day ❤ Hugs!