Teachers win awards for their dedication — in class and out — to undergraduates

Six members of the Yale faculty were recently honored with awards for outstanding teaching.

The teachers were nominated by their students, and were presented their awards by Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway in a ceremony on May 3. The Teaching, Learning, and Advising Committee selected the winners from among the nominees.

At the ceremony, Holloway read some of the praise undergraduates gave their award-winning teachers, noting that their commentary reflects the “precious resource we have in our teachers.”

The winning teachers — and Holloway’s citations, in part — follow.

Craig Wright, the Henry L. & Lucy G. Moses Professor of Music — the Harwood F. Byrnes/Richard B. Sewall Teaching Prize: “For over four decades, you have shared your deep love and appreciation for music with Yale students. No matter how large your lecture courses, you somehow learn the names of all of your students, and regardless of their backgrounds and expertise, you make music history come alive to them. One of your students says, ‘Professor Wright exemplifies what liberal arts teaching should be about: presenting material that is interesting and challenging to students from all disciplines and leaving them with an appreciation for the subject and a foundation that will serve them well in other courses.’ Another says, ‘he brings to his classes everything a great teacher should have: flawless knowledge of his area, a gift for communicating his ideas, and well-organized and fair class structure and materials.’ Other students say that because of the way you teach, you inspire them to contribute. One of them says, ‘He made us feel like we actually could comment on music, his area of expertise, and not feel utterly dwarfed by his talents.’”

See a Q&A: As he makes music history come alive, Craig Wright encourages 'push back'

Miki Havlíčková, senior lecturer in mathematics — the Richard H. Brodhead ’68 Prize for Teaching Excellence by a Non-Ladder Faculty Member: “Your students describe your classes as ‘rigorous yet interesting, challenging yet supportive,’ and they appreciate the lucid way in which you explain difficult mathematical concepts. In nominating you for this prize, one student said, ‘I left the course inspired, something I never expected from an introductory mathematics course.’ Another student explained, ‘Every time I leave class, I feel I’ve gained new insights into the beautiful mathematical objects that are the subject of the class. A teacher who can do that is priceless.’ Another added, ‘I do not think I will remember all the details of how to solve every multivariable calculus problem, but what I am taking away from that class is the process of thinking about a problem.’ Students also greatly appreciate your accessibility and how much time you spend with them after class and in office hours.”

See a Q&A: Office hours for support and moments of 'wow' earn Miki Havlíčková the appreciation of math students

Jonathan Ellman, the Eugene Higgins Professor of Chemistry — the Dylan Hixon ’88 Prize for Teaching Excellence in the Natural Sciences and Mathematics: “Your students describe you as an ‘organized and efficient lecturer’ who ‘imbues your courses with so much of [your] own passion’ that ‘[they] cannot help but be excited about the material.’ One student wrote, ‘While the subject matter is certainly challenging, Professor Ellman’s organized teaching style made learning organic chemistry a joy. His clear and logical presentation of the material was extremely effective in teaching a large volume of information.’ In addition to your skills as a lecturer in the classroom, students praise your accessibility outside of class. One student noted, ‘He is also extremely available in office hours and will take as much time as you need. Interacting with him is always a joy. I sometimes feel as if there is nothing that he cannot explain.’ Your students praise your energy, your enthusiasm, and your extraordinary talent for helping them think conceptually about complex material.”

See a Q&A: Tackling complex concepts with his students, Jonathan Ellman brings 'joy' to the process of discovery

Lloyd Grieger, assistant professor of sociology — the Lex Hixon ’63 Prize for Teaching Excellence in the Social Sciences: “Your students praise you for explaining complicated topics in innovative ways and for bringing together a range of disciplines and methods to inform public policy. One of your students described you as ‘one of the clearest, most engaging, and accessible professors I have had the pleasure of studying with. He is respected, appreciated, but most tellingly, adored by his students.’ Another student said, ‘Professor Grieger successfully gets us not only to engage the material for a class period, but also to care deeply about it even after we leave the room.’ Another raved, ‘I have never seen a professor make multivariable calculus seem so straightforward and actually useful in solving problems beyond the textbook and outside the classroom.”

See a Q&A: Applying concepts to real-world problems, Lloyd Grieger keeps his students thinking after class ends

Glenda Gilmore, the Peter V. and C. Vann Woodward Professor of History and professor of African American studies and American studies — the Sidonie Miskimin Clauss ’75 Prize for Teaching Excellence in the Humanities: “You are both an interdisciplinary scholar and an interdisciplinary teacher, incorporating poetry, film, music, and personal anecdotes to give your students a feel for the life of the people and times you describe. One student said in nominating you for this prize that your lectures are like going to a ‘one-woman Broadway show.’ Other students describe you as ‘engaging,’ ‘enthusiastic,’ and ‘down-to-earth.’ They rave about the way you ‘weave together seamlessly provocative secondary sources with fascinating primary documents,’ and they thank you for teaching them to think critically about what it means to be a responsible historian. One of your students added: ‘The effort she personally put out for each student doing research was unbelievable. We felt like junior colleagues in the field, rather than mere students in a class.’”

See a Q&A: With 'infectious passion,' Glenda Gilmore opens panoramic views for historians-in-the-making

Daniel Magaziner, associate professor of history — the Sarai Ribicoff ’75 Prize for Teaching Excellence in Yale College: “Your students describe you as ‘phenomenal,’ ‘brilliant,’ ‘eloquent,’ and ‘dedicated’ — ‘a poet’ in the classroom. They praise your efforts to ‘instill a critical lens through which to examine language, history, and culture’ and the ways in which you make history ‘not only relevant, but essential to understanding our shared world.’ Thanks to you, one student writes, ‘the African continent feels a lot less like a great unknown.’ ‘As I sit in the class,’ says another one of your students, ‘I often am bursting with energy and excitement; it feels as if we all leave each lecture better, more thoughtful, people.’”

See a Q&A: In Daniel Magaziner's African studies courses, preconceived ideas begin to slip away