Professor brings class treats, boosts morale

Illustration by Anna McDonald

A professor at the University of Central Missouri takes one day a semester to give back to his students in a sweet way.

John Check, music theory coordinator, said he likes to reward his students for working hard. One unexpected day each semester, Check brings doughnuts in for his entire class.

He has been doing it for more than 17 years, starting when he was a teacher assistant in graduate school.

“Ever since I was a graduate student and taught a class of my own, once a semester we have had what I call ‘Doughnut Day,’” Check said.

He said he does this because it’s satisfying for him to demonstrate kindness for his students.

“He’ll bring in doughnuts for students to show his appreciation for all of their hard work and focus,” said Shelby Rouse, sophomore music major in one of his music theory classes.

Check said he occasionally stores the doughnuts in his office, runs out in the middle of class and brings them back. Other times he said he gets more creative.

“There have been times where I’ve hid the doughnuts in, say, a piano bench or in a cabinet,” he said.

He has traveled as far as the Kansas City metropolitan area to pick up the treats, and he once set out at 4 a.m. for doughnuts.

“I’ve bought the doughnuts from various places in Warrensburg, but I’ve even driven to Lee’s Summit for LaMar’s Donuts, Independence for Krispy Kreme, and Overland Park for John’s Space Age Donuts,” he said.

The inspiration for doughnut day came from one of his former professors.

“I point to a teacher I had my freshman year at Northwestern University, Paul Berliner,” he said. “During my first trimester, on the very first day outside the lecture hall, arrayed about the table, were doughnuts.”

Check said he was so impressed by his gesture that it stuck with him as he went on to teach.

“If I had a chance to bring doughnuts for my students, then I sure would,” he said.

Austin Shults, senior instrumental music education major, said the gesture shows just how much Check cares.

“Dr. Check has a way of building incredibly strong relationships with his students and by surprising his class with doughnuts it shows the students that he appreciates us,” Shults said. “He has molded a great teaching style. His spark for music is something that I strive for in my own teaching style.”

Doughnut day appears to stick with Check’s students even after graduation.

“I have had a number of students, especially those who go on to become teachers, tell me that they have instituted doughnut days of their own,” he said. “That’s very gratifying to me. I like the way the gesture is passed on.”

He said if a section is small enough and there is enough time, he takes the class to Einstein Bros. Bagels and tells the students they can order whatever they want.

“When he does do a doughnut day, I observe that his students feel very respected and appreciated, and they even talk to each other about needing to work harder and pay more attention in Dr. Check’s lectures,” Rouse said. “It definitely motivates students to work harder and more diligently, but part of that is also due to Dr. Check himself. He is just one of those teachers that makes you want to succeed and excel in his class.”

He has already formulated a scheme for doughnut days this semester and says he plans on purchasing seven dozen doughnuts.

“It’s such a wonderful opportunity being a student, a wonderful opportunity being a teacher,” Check said. “I hope that some of the things I do can make the experience for my students just a little better.”

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