Society of Sewanee Scholars highlights best teaching practices

SOSS dinner

The Society of Sewanee Scholars (SOSS) held its annual Spring “Best Teaching Practices” dinner last week at the Sewanee Inn. Teachers honored this year, all of whom have contributed significantly to the learning experiences of members of the SOSS, were: Professors Al Bardi (Psychology), Julie Berebitsky (Women’s Studies and History), David Haskell (Biology), Ron Pongdee (Chemistry), Leslie Richardson (Italian and Film Studies), and John Shibata (Chemistry). Professor William Engel (English and Humanities) served as the host on behalf of the SOSS, which has been ably run this year by Emelie Rodriguez, C’13, who was assisted by Brita Brudvig, C’15, in planning the dinner.

Doug Drinen (Math and Computer Science) and Chris McDonough (Classical Languages) spoke on specific assignments that had yielded remarkable results and that showcased students' initiative and ingenuity. Drinen focused on a mathematical modeling project that involved students working through the importance of finding the right questions to isolate “process” rather than getting bogged down in searching for the “right answer.” McDonough mentioned a break from his usual discussion approach to Homer’s description of the Shield of Achilles in the Iliad, during which students were asked to represent what they picked up from the passage by drawing their ideas. This led to what McDonough said was a truly deep and fruitful unpacking of the passage and of Homer’s literary method.

Their remarks were followed by a dinner where students had a chance to get to know their teachers and administrators better. Chief administrators in attendance were Deans Alex Bruce, John Gatta, Larry Jones, and Mary Beth Bankson Williams, along with Provost John Swallow, Athletic Director Mark Webb, Registrar Paul Wiley, and Bonnie McCardell.

The Society of Sewanee Scholars believes that every teacher at Sewanee is outstanding, and so seeks to highlight different teachers each year who demonstrate compassionate and innovative approaches to teaching and learning. This dinner is part of an ongoing effort sponsored by the SOSS to generate important conversations between and among students, teachers, and administrators about creative and thoughtful pedagogy.

- William Engel

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