Six individuals have received the James A. and Ruth Levitan Teaching Award for 2021. The award, given annually by the MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (SHASS), honors superlative teachers across the school, who have been nominated by MIT students themselves.
The 2021 winners are: Daniel Clark of the Department of Economics, Sara Ellison of the Department of Economics, Erik Lin-Greenberg of the Department of Political Science, Masami Ikeda-Lamm of MIT Global Languages, Maria Khotimsky of MIT Global Languages, and Kenda Mutongi of the MIT History Section.
About the award, SHASS Dean Melissa Nobles says, “This prize honors instructors in our school who have demonstrated outstanding success in teaching our undergraduate and graduate students. These great educators, who are nominated by students themselves, represent the very best academic leadership in the school.”
Each honoree is introduced below with a sample quote from one of their student nominations.
Daniel Clark, teaching assistant in economics
“Daniel is a superb teacher. Generous with his time, patient and thorough in his explanations, he helped many students in our PhD Microeconomics class — myself included — be confident about our ability to handle complex and advanced materials and perform well. His genuine interest in helping students during office hours, recitations, and beyond resulted in an extremely rewarding learning experience.”
Sara Ellison, senior lecturer in economics
“Having Professor Ellison in 14.01 was a treat. She really knows how to make learning fun, and all of her lectures were so enjoyable. Although the material in the class was challenging, I felt that it prepared me immensely for my future economics classes. In addition, she balanced the difficult content with fun trivia every lecture that was accompanied by free T-shirts as a prize. When Covid-19 hit, she offered to make 14.01 T-shirts for everyone in the class and mail them to the home of any student who requested one. I really felt that she cared about our well-being and that she was there for us.”
Erik Lin-Greenberg, assistant professor of political science
“Erik joined MIT in the middle of the pandemic. He’s never met with any of his students in person. Yet he has demonstrated consistent empathy that goes above and beyond what teachers normally provide. He has reached out to me on numerous occasions to make sure that I’m doing OK, that I am on track to complete semester projects, and that other professors are not giving assignments during MIT-mandated breaks”
Masami Ikeda-Lamm, lecturer in global languages
“There were some days when we enjoyed the class so much and the way the content was taught that we were laughing and cooperating to the conversation in Japanese; I think it is difficult to achieve this balance of fun and learning and Prof. Ikeda definitively did achieve this balance! Whenever I had an issue or questions, she was very approachable and also comprehensive, and she stayed after class in case anybody had questions.”
Maria Khotimsky, senior lecturer in global languages
“Prof. Khotimsky has been the most earnest, supportive, and effective HASS professor I have encountered at MIT. I took Russian I on a whim this last IAP [Independent Activities Period], but was so compelled by her enthusiasm and teaching style that I made Russian II integral to my final semester at MIT this spring. She does everything that us students can hope for on paper: She is responsive, adaptive, supportive, but always pushing students to improve and explore in Russian grammar and culture. But even more important, she cares about us, and she does everything in her power to make these digital terms meaningful.”
Kenda Mutongi, professor of history
“I knew that Professor Mutongi respected each of our opinions and reflections. To this day, every time I email or see Professor Mutongi in a Zoom call, she makes a point to message me privately or respond within less than a day. I am incredibly grateful to Professor Mutongi and know that the rest of the class feels similarly. My time at MIT would not have been the same without her.”