Leah Glasser Awarded Mount Holyoke College Faculty Award for Teaching
The most famous example of Leah’s transformative pedagogy is Pulitzer and MacArthur-Prize winning playwright, Suzan-Lori Parks ’85, who has repeatedly credited Leah’s teaching with shifting her path from the sciences to literature.
In four decades at Mount Holyoke, Leah Glasser has transformed generations of students through her expertise in both literature and creative writing, her compassionate mentoring, and her unflagging commitment to her students.
Leah is a scholar of nineteenth-century American women writers and the author of a celebrated biography of New England fiction writer Mary Wilkins Freeman. Her American literature courses reflect this expertise, in such seminars as “Nature and Gender,” “A Landscape of One’s Own,” and “Desperate Housewives.” A student in the latter summarized, “I learned a lot about the evolution and progression of women’s voices and stories!” Unusually for a scholar trained in literary history, Leah also regularly teaches Creative Writing. Thus she is expert at developing the “voices” of students as creative writers as well as literary critics. One explained: “Her energy and teaching style makes the class compelling and excited to attend... This was the only course that I didn’t have a procrastination problem with... I leave this course feeling like an improved and more confident writer.”
The most famous example of Leah’s transformative pedagogy is Pulitzer and MacArthur-Prize winning playwright, Suzan-Lori Parks ’85, who has repeatedly credited Leah’s teaching with shifting her path from the sciences to literature. As Leah has written, “To have such an impact on a student’s intellectual and creative life early on is every English teacher’s dream.” Such transformations continue to happen every day in Leah’s classroom. As one first-year student wrote recently, “[She] made sure that each student had a chance to participate in class discussion while also understanding that different people participate differently. She acted as though she had a responsibility to help first year students acclimate to life in college and understand how to enjoy their time at MHC, which was so lovely. It was comforting to feel as though you had an advocate.”
Leah has indeed been “an advocate” for students in many ways, as when she served as faculty mentor for the Posse Foundation Cohort from 2011-15. She has collaborated regularly with others, team-teaching the course “War: What is it Good for” and introducing students regularly to the wonders of the Art Museum. And of course, she has occupied prominent administrative roles at MHC, as Dean of First-Year Students (for sixteen years), Dean for the Senior Class, and Dean of Studies. It is not so much that she has had two separate roles, as teacher and administrator, but rather that teaching and administration have been two complementary avenues for her to deepen her commitment to students. Many have been transformed by her care and expertise as Dean, from first-year students entering MHC to seniors exiting – not to mention the faculty who have learned much from her about advising and college life.
Rooted in South Hadley, Leah has traveled far in her pedagogy, from teaching classes in Seoul and Beijing to, most recently, navigating the virtual geography of Zoom. Here too she has excelled: as one student wrote in spring, “Professor Glasser was incredibly helpful after school closed [due to Covid]. She made many adjustments to the syllabus ... to make it possible for us during an emotionally demanding time. I really appreciate the support through remote learning.” “Remote learning” seems a misnomer for the intimacy of Leah Glasser’s pedagogy. We celebrate her for the many non-remote and transformative forms of teaching that she has brought for four decades to MHC, and present her with the Mount Holyoke College Faculty Award for Teaching.