Note: Prof. Saul Levmore won the Law School's Teaching Award in 2012 and again in 2013. The story below is adapted from a profile published last year.
Students describe Prof. Saul Levmore as inquisitive, charismatic, confident, engaging and downright funny, with a bit of an edge that keeps them on their toes.
For those reasons and others, students in the graduating Class of 2013 honored Levmore at the Graduating Students annual dinner. Levmore was presented with the Teaching Award for excellence in educating this year's class of law graduates.
Levmore, dean of the Law School from 2001 to 2009, said that as a teacher his goal is to provide added value to what the students can learn from law books. He works to develop “predictive theories of law” with his students, which will help them think in broader ways, not just about the particulars of a certain case. Before joining the UChicago law faculty in 1998, Levmore taught at Virginia, Harvard, Yale, Michigan and Northwestern.
“I love teaching. I like challenging students. I’m learning when I’m teaching,” he said. In fact, he estimates up to half of the themes in his scholarly writing come to him in the classroom. Levmore also appreciates that teaching allows him to see firsthand how students and technology change over the years. For instance, this year, for the first time, he utilized i>clicker remotes, which allow him to electronically poll the entire classroom on questions both concrete and theoretical. It’s been a great tool to assess the progress of the class as a whole, he said.
But no technology will replace his central teaching strategy, which is to challenge and question and provoke thought in his students.
“I was very bored as a student,” he said. “I’m so desperate not to bore them.”
Levmore is well aware that he’s known for his “strong personality,” which includes a dry and sometimes sarcastic wit. Most students respond well to it, he said, but he acknowledged he would never be the professor every student loves.
Clearly, plenty of them are fans. In fact, Alex Hartzler, ’12, said Levmore is the reason he came to the Law School. He was convinced by the then dean’s description of the school’s commitment to “intellectual rigor, expanding one’s mind and challenging one’s positions.”
As a professor, Levmore “weaves so many skill sets together: the Socratic law professor, the earnestly curious thinker, the scathing comedian, the master orator. His Public Choice Theory class is legendary, and any current student should consider it a ‘must’—if nothing else, just to have the opportunity to spend a term engaging with a master law professor at his best,” said Hartzler.