they challenge students with heavy reading loads or rigorous
exercises in the Socratic method, the five teachers who won
the Alumni Association's All-University Outstanding Teaching
Awards this month know how to win over their students -- with
an enthusiasm that conveys not only their expertise, but a
belief in students'ability to rise to their expectations.
Included in this week's issue are three of the winners. Next
week, we'll feature the other two, Drs. Tina Brashers and
love professors' winning ways
puts his students through strenuous mental exercise
Abraham teaches courses on torts, insurance and evidence, not
the most electrifying sub- jects in many law students' eyes, and
he is known for requiring, in one colleague's words, "strenuous
mental exercise" from his charges. Yet he is one of the most
popular teachers in the Law
be at once substantive, demanding -- the rap on him among students
is that he is one of the two or three hardest teachers in the
Law School -- and wildly popular teaching courses like [insurance
and evidence] is something close to a miracle," wrote William
J. Stuntz, Class of 1962 Professor and Horace W. Goldsmith Research
Professor, in recommending Abraham for the award. "I suspect
Ken teaches the only insurance class in American legal education
that regularly has 100-plus enrollments."
S. Abraham, Class of 1962 Professor of Law and Albert C. Tate
Jr. Research Professor, was voted "best professor" in
the February 1999 issue of Virginia Law Weekly, based on the results
of a survey among law students.
Abraham is by far the very best professor I have ever had at any
academic level. His unfailing love for teaching tort law, coupled
with his highly organized and remarkably inspiring teaching style,
have significantly raised the bar [by] which I will judge every
professor," wrote Michael McCann, class of 2002.
Abraham, a nationally recognized scholar on insurance and tort
law who came to U.Va. in 1984, uses the Socratic method, questioning
students rigorously. "He pushes them hard," wrote law
professor Barbara E. Armacost. "The depth Ken brings to the
students' understanding makes the strenuous mental exercise worth
students praised his accessibility, noting that, unless he is
teaching or in a meeting, he is available 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
every day, Monday to Friday. Students are often lined up in the
hall outside his door, noted Law dean Robert Scott.
make theory practical for students, Abraham uses examples from
his law practice; strives to present material in a clear, organized
manner; and seeks "to make students uncomfortable about their
own preconceptions" about the law, he wrote in a statement
about his teaching.
He also draws on his enthusiasm: "I love the subjects I teach,
and I love being in the classroom," he wrote.
classes have that je ne sais quoi
instills basics of critical thinking