For more than 45 years, Case Western Reserve University has honored exemplary faculty members with the Carl F. Wittke Award for Distinguished Undergraduate Teaching. This year's winner, Bernard Jim, is a SAGES Fellow who has developed such popular courses as Spectacle in American Culture and Puzzled.
Jim has been teaching CWRU undergraduates for 14 years. He started out as a teaching assistant while working on his PhD in history, and then taught courses on technology and culture for the Department of History and the Weatherhead School of Management. He was named as a SAGES Fellow in 2007.
When it comes to connecting with students, Jim believes that his most valuable skill is "unlearning."
“It is very important for me to ‘unlearn’ what I know about the material that I am teaching,” he says. “This keeps things fresh for me and helps me to meet the students at their level of knowledge regarding the topic.”
President Barbara R. Snyder made a surprise visit to Jim's classroom to announce the news. “President Snyder doesn’t tap you on the shoulder in a darkened classroom too often," he says. "I was pleasantly terrified.”
In the classroom, Jim is known for his interactive, engaging and approachable style. “He kept the entire class awake and engaged throughout the period and always had something funny to add in,” a student nominator said. Another student noted that, outside the classroom, Jim is "available to help in any way possible."
For his part, Jim says, “I love everything about my gig. Case students are smart, hardworking, and they offer enough resistance to make every seminar meeting a challenge."
Amy Absher, a SAGES Fellow since Fall 2010, is the 2011 recipient of the Richard A. Bloom, M.D., Award for Distinguished Teaching in the SAGES Program.
"She is the type of professor that is 100 percent committed to teaching and nurturing each student,” one student nominator said. Another wrote that Absher “knows how to keep every class interesting and enjoyable, while still effectively teaching the subject matter.”
Absher designed three seminars during her first year with the SAGES program: Murder in the Jazz Age, Bring Out Your Dead (a course about plagues) and How I Learned to Love the Bomb.
While most of the world still runs on non-renewable resources, Philip L. Taylor, Distinguished University Professor and Perkins Professor of Physics, has demonstrated the benefits of alternative energy. He invited students in his First Seminar, Energy and Society, to visit his home, where he installed a solar panel almost 10 years ago. Since then, his energy bill has averaged $21 a month.
Students in Barbara Clemenson’s SAGES seminar submitted photos of their visit to Lake View Cemetery to a class competition in Fall 2010. Estalblished in 1869, Lakeview Cemetery is the final resting place of many renowned authors, civic leaders, inventors and philanthropists.
What happened to super-sized Mesozoic-era Repenomamus and tiny Batodonoides Vanhouterli? SAGES students in a seminar taught by Patricia Higgins (associate professor, Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing) and Thomas Hornick (associate professor, CWRU School of Medicine) explore the largest and smallest mammals at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. The seminar explains how and why humans remain vulnerable to universal processes and patterns related to aging.
Chemistry professor John Stuehr introduced his First Seminar students to the automobile's origins, development and impact on American society from several perspectives. During a visit to the Crawford Auto Aviation Collection at the Western Reserve Historical Society, some of the students rode in a 1942 Willys 1/4-ton general purpose 4x4 "jeep" ...until, alas, it broke down and the students pushed it back to the museum.