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Professor surprised with touching gratitude video for making an impact

by Monica Smith

Nov 25, 2020, 10:00 AM.

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FIU Adjunct Professor Jeanette Smith arranges a surprise video featuring a “Game of Thrones” actor for her students, and then her students turn around and participate in a surprise gratitude video to thank her for being passionate and making a difference.

In her religion and fantasy class, Adjunct Professor Jeanette Smith makes her lessons relatable with the “Game of Thrones” HBO series. She’s so passionate about her students and the subject matter she teaches for the Department of Religious Studies that she obtained an original message from the First Sword of Braavos, Syrio Forel (British actor Miltos Yerolemou), especially for her class to kick off the semester.

Passion for students

For those who are GOT fans, the First Sword of Braavos is the character who teaches Arya Stark how to sword fight in the first season of the series. 

“My students really mean the world to me,” says Smith. “So, I sent a raven,” she says sheepishly, not willing to break character and to keep up the mystery for her class on how she managed to get the video.

Within the video, Yerolemou, in character as Syrio Forel, addresses the class, states Smith’s name and tells the students that “There is only one God, and His name is Death. And there is only one thing we say to Death: ‘not today.’”

Student reaction

Upon realizing that the video was filmed exclusively for her class, the students’ eyes in the Zoom class widen in disbelief and a few make exclamations like, “No way!”; “I’m going to lose it!”; and “How did you get this?”

 

Clearly, it was a moment, and Smith captured the whole thing as she filmed the Zoom reveal.

“You choose this class for passion,” she says. “I’m pretty sure dragons are real,” she muses, illustrating her love for the subject matter. 

Smith describes her class as a safe space for students to talk about their points of view without judgment. The No. 1 rule in her class is respect. With that understanding, her class has offered a forum for discussion of diversity and inclusion, and conversations have even included two usually off-limits topics: religion and politics.

“They’re all respectful, they know how to have conversations, and they may have even disagreed, but they do it with respect,” notes Smith, who recently won FIU's Outstanding Adjunct Professor Award.

Turning the table

To thank Smith for her excitement about her class, students participated in a gratitude video to turn the tables and surprise her right back. Brought in for an interview about all of her involvement with faith and social justice programs in Miami, Smith had no idea of the real reason she was invited for an interview.

Minutes after she arrived, the truth was revealed as positive quotes from her students were read to her aloud. Two students even provided gratitude videos to personally thank her for the impact she’s had on their student experience with FIU. 

“I’m still amazed by it,” says Smith while laughing about how her students really can keep a good secret.

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