2013 Recipients of SAS Teaching Awards Announced
- Sherri Somers
The 2013 SAS Awards for Distinguished Contributions to Undergraduate Education were held on May 7, honoring ten faculty members for accomplishments both within and beyond the classroom. Rutgers President Robert L. Barchi opened the ceremony with remarks that emphasized how important a strong arts and sciences program is to the university. Acting Executive Dean Richard S. Falk then presented the awards which cover the spectrum of SAS fields from Anthropology to Chemistry and Chemical Biology to French to Mathematics.
Professor Paul Schalow has developed and teaches a number of our most interesting, innovative, and popular courses, including Atomic Bomb Literature, Samurai Tradition in Japanese Literature and Film, and the highly popular Global East Asia Signature Course. Professor Schalow’s teaching in these and other courses is a vital component in the curricula of the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures in Japanese and East Asian languages, literatures, and cultures. His courses spark student interest, highlight important cultural issues, and focus on questions of relevance to the students' own lives and futures. Other courses Professor Schalow has developed and taught include Japanese Women Writers and The Tale of Genji as World Literature; and he co-created and has co-taught From Text to Image in Japanese Art. He has also taught East Asian Civilizations: Traditional Era for our East Asian Studies Program, in which he brings a fresh creative perspective that guides his students in engaging closely and vividly with the East Asian past. In his courses he introduces students to literary works in their social and historical contexts, paying particular attention to ethical questions and social issues. His approach is a thoughtful and balanced one that motivates students to develop their own penetrating and compassionate perspective on the issues. It is a testimony to Professor Schalow’s skill as a teacher and mentor that in just a few years the Global East Asia Signature Course has become our department's most popular offering, with an enrollment of nearly 420 students this Spring 2013. He consistently earns top scores on his teaching effectiveness and the quality of his courses and students frequently and effusively praise Professor Schalow’s teaching. With his engaging, sensitive, and thoughtful classroom style, Paul Schalow has contributed widely and significantly to the education of Rutgers undergraduates in interesting, innovative, well designed courses that deeply and thoughtfully enhance the educational experience of our students. We are delighted that his skill and effort in teaching is recognized and celebrated with the 2013 SAS Award for Distinguished Contributors to Undergraduate Education.
Professor Mary Speer has long set the gold standard for students and colleagues alike in the French Department. She is, as one student puts it, a “master at her craft” whose “tough love” made him "try harder." Professor Speer’s students unanimously salute her rigor and consistency regarding class organization and rules, her extreme clarity and efficiency in delivering information, and above all her high expectations. The fact is, Professor Speer is known to require more work than most teachers do. “I’ve spent more time on homework for this class than any other,” confesses a senior, albeit with more gratitude than frustration, because Professor Speer’s courses meticulous evaluation and abundance of feedback make one’s hard work worthwhile." "It is a time consuming and intellectually demanding course,” reflects another senior, “but overall I am proud to have taken it. I feel the instructor had an essential role in easing these difficulties and even elevating the course to one I could look forward to attending.” Professor Speer’s uncanny ability to raise her students’ skill level is only matched by her talent at raising appreciation for the material she teaches. “Her unique passion and dedication to studying and researching is contagious,” says one student. “Professor Speer is a treasure,” says another, “not just any professor could make the medieval era feel so modern!” It is clear that our undergraduate students immediately recognize in Mary Speer a brilliant scholar – an epithet that appears over and over in their comments – and realize how fortunate they are to have the opportunity to discover Medieval literature under the wing of a world-renowned specialist of Arthurian fiction. One of our Seniors contributing a testimonial for Mary Speer's nomination for the present award concluded by stating “Quite simply, no one deserves it more.” Her colleagues concur enthusiastically, could not agree more!
Professor Ben. Sifuentes-Jáuregui has established a well-deserved reputation as a brilliant teacher and an inspirational and challenging mentor in the Department of American Studies and the Comparative Literature Program. His students consistently praise him for the ease with which he makes difficult theoretical concepts intelligible and meaningful to them, for his devotion to developing their unique intellectual talents and interests, and for the ways in which he empowers them to feel confidence in expressing their ideas and opinions. They are grateful for his invaluable assistance in developing skills like critical analysis and written expression, and his openness to exploring new ideas. He empowers both undergraduate and graduate students to feel confident about what they have achieved and inspires them to meet additional intellectual challenges. A former student wrote: “From day one in his courses, Professor Sifuentes-Jáuregui goes out of his way to make his students comfortable to express themselves and their interpretations of texts, while simultaneously holding us accountable for what we say and the issues we raise during class.” And a colleague summarized his remarkable achievement: “Professor Ben Sifuentes-Jáuregui is the complete package: an active and innovative scholar, an exemplary academic citizen, and a passionate, visionary, and brilliant teacher.” As such, he is fully deserving of the 2013 SAS Award for Distinguished Contributions to Undergraduate Education.
Karen Kalteissen began her career teaching high school students from the Navaho reservation in Arizona. When she came to Rutgers nearly ten years ago, she brought along the same spirit of social commitment that attracted her to such challenging work. First hired as a part-time lecturer, Ms. Kalteissen quickly rose through the ranks to become a highly respected instructor with a reputation for inspiring some of the most resistant undergraduates. Eventually she was chosen to become the assistant director in charge of the Douglass tutoring center, and there she set a new standard before returned to full time teaching. It must be said that Ms. Kalteissen is not just an excellent teacher: her evaluations on the SIRS reports are the highest of any instructor in Writing Program history. Besides teaching courses in developmental writing and English as a Second Language, she has played an important role in the EOF Summer Program and in the mentoring of former inmates from Mountainview Correctional Facility. As one student wrote about Karen Kalteissen’s most recent developmental writing class, “Karen’s best quality is getting you to believe in yourself.”
At root is Dr. Lee’s intellectual and social compassion. Time and again, we have been impressed by his tireless commitment to teaching and institution building, particularly his commitment to developing undergraduate programming that reflects the experiences of our diverse student body. Dr. Lee has strived to provide enriching and transformative experiences for undergraduate students at Rutgers, both in the classroom and beyond. Drawing upon his expansive local knowledge of Rutgers, he has played a key role in instituting the annual Asian American Studies undergraduate symposium and the Asian American Studies learning community — examples of co-curricular programming that help fulfill our mission as a public university. His boundless talent and organizational strength are matched by his intellectual energy. Rick Lee is a first-rate colleague, whose gifts — both personal and professional — are extraordinarily impressive. As such, he is fully deserving of the 2013 SAS Award for Distinguished Contributions to Undergraduate Education.
As a full time instructor in the Mathematics Department for the last three years, Melissa Lieberman has made outstanding contributions as both a teacher and faculty colleague. She has built a reputation for very effectively teaching a wide range of math courses -- including several intended for math-phobic students, such as Topics in Mathematics for the Liberal Arts -- accumulating an outstanding average teaching effectiveness rating of 4.67 out of 5, in spite of the students' low prior interest in the subject, and deep anxieties about studying it. She has genuinely convinced many of her students that they could indeed succeed in a math course, though most had imagined otherwise; as one student put it, among many expressing the same thought, “I am horrible at math, but in this class, I was able to shine.” Ms. Lieberman has also played an important role in the Mathematics Department's teaching and ongoing development of courses for liberal arts majors, by being one of a small number of instructors entrusted with the role of teaching and polishing certain courses before they are assigned to a wider circle of instructors. During weekly chat room discussions among the instructors in Math 103 and 106, she is a prolific contributor, and very generously produces and shares both course materials and teaching advice with her colleagues. She has also taught algebra courses for the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences's EOF program every summer since 2006. The Mathematics Department approved the addition of Math 106 to the SAS EOF course offerings this summer, on the strict condition that she be the instructor! To conclude with a student comment summarizing Melissa Lieberman's profound impact on students who do not view themselves as strong in mathematics, “This instructor is by far the best instructor that I've ever had at Rutgers.”
In any field, effective teachers find a way to help their students experience the thrill of saying something new. This would certainly apply to Sarah Goldfarb, English Teaching Assistant, who has shown students at many levels—from classes in development writing to courses for advanced majors—that real thinking always involves taking risks. As one student wrote about Ms. Goldfarb’s “Introduction to the Novel,” “she was incredibly helpful in pushing us to take our ideas beyond the obvious. . . . It was a truly eye-opening experience to be a part of this section.” Another student from English 101 had this to say about Ms. Goldfarb’s teaching: “I was always good at picking out an author’s main point, but I never actually questioned why they were making that point. As a thinker, I’ve learned not only to identify the ‘what’ but also to analyze the ‘why.’ The best part of it all was that Sarah Goldfarb always had a smile on her face.” Another student summed up his appreciation with a single word--“Superb.”