Class Distinction

Two members of the faculty were recognized for outstanding performance in the classroom at Rally Day 1997 when they received the traditional Junior and Senior Teaching Awards.

Paulette Peckol, professor of biological sciences, recipient of the latter honor, which was presented by Emily Petty ’97, graduated from Wittenburg University and received the Ph. D. from Duke University. She arrived at Smith in 1985 as assistant professor and coordinator of the Five College Coastal and Marine Science Program. Promoted to full professor in 1996, she teaches courses in introductory biology, environmental biology and in both marine and tropical ecology.

The citation read by Petty included several comments about Peckol by the students who nominated her for the award: “She answers all questions without passing judgment on a student or intimidating her”; and “She made me feel confident and intelligent and, because she expected quality work from me and believed that I could produce it, I did some of my best work at Smith in her classes.” Students also commented on the emphasis that Peckol places on verbal and written communications skills, emphasizing that these are “the tools for success.” But it’s not all work in Peckol’s classes: “Her sense of humor,” observed the teaching award citation, “has created a new experience for students as they begin to realize that science can be lots of fun.”

Humor was also a theme in the citation read by Deborah Szarski ’97 as she presented the Junior Teaching Award to Assistant Professor of Sociology Marc Steinberg. Szarski called Steinberg’s sense of humor “wacky” and remarked on “the quirky enthusiasm” that leads him to play Madonna’s “Material Girl” as a prelude to a discussion of capitalism and motivate students to make insightful connections between experience and theory by awarding “funky fish pens.” In a more serious vein, Szarski quoted one of Steinberg’s students as saying that he “encourages us to learn because we love to learn and allows us to remember why learning is something to love.” Steinberg received both the A.B. and the M.A. in history from The Johns Hopkins University and the Ph. D. in sociology from the University of Michigan. He has been teaching at Smith since 1994 and his courses have included introductory sociology, theories of society, contemporary sociological theory and social movements.

Award recipients are determined by the Faculty Teaching Awards Committee, a group of students from the sophomore, junior and senior and Ada Comstock classes. Nominations for the awards are submitted in letters from Smith students and include anecdotes and specific examples of teaching excellence. The committee members rely on the strength of the nomination letters, rather than the number of letters they receive about a single candidate, to make their choices.