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Professor Shellenberger Wins Great Teacher Award

Professor Jim Shellenberger, a thirty-year member of the Temple Law faculty, has received the highest award Temple University has to offer an individual who has committed his or her life to teaching: the University Great Teacher Award. This honor was far from Professor James Shellenberger's first. Amazingly-despite a torrent of awards from admiring students and colleagues bestowed on him throughout his entire teaching career- humility is repeatedly cited as one of Shellenberger's strengths. A student writes that Shellenberger was "the most natural and gifted teacher I encountered in law school." A former Freedman Teaching Fellow recounts his collaboration with Shellenberger: "Simply stated, every conversation was a gold mine for an aspiring young professor like me." A colleague sums it up: "Jim Shellenberger is not a great teacher. 'Great' does not begin to explain Jim or his teaching. Jim Shellenberger is an inspiring, passionate, generous, and caring teacher. Simply put, Jim is a one-in-a-million teacher."  

Unlike some "born teachers," Shellenberger did not always aspire to be in the classroom. After graduating from Villanova Law School in 1972, where he worked on the law review and graduated magna cum laude, he spent five years in the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office and two years with Schnader, Harrison, Segal & Lewis' litigation department. In 1979 he moved to the criminal procedural rules committee of the State Supreme Court, where he served as secretary and chief staff counsel. He joined the Temple Law faculty in 1983. And for the last 30 years, students have raved about his teaching skills and flocked to his classes. Shellenberger's courses are at the heart of the criminal law curriculum: criminal law, criminal procedure, and federal criminal law. In addition, he teaches litigation basics and, on occasion, an introduction to international criminal law.

Shellenberger's commitment to teaching extends beyond the traditional curriculum. He singlehandedly founded and runs the law school's Academic Core Enrichment (ACE) program, which provides support to first-year law students, particularly those struggling with the transition to law school. His expertise is sought well beyond the walls of the law school, as he accepts requests to teach leading practitioners, including federal judges and bar examiners, the nuances of the law. The awards acknowledging Shellenberger's gift for teaching began to accumulate soon after he joined the faculty. In only his third year of teaching, the graduating class selected Shellenberger to receive the George P. Williams Award, presented to the member of the law school faculty "who has made the most significant contribution to their Law School career." He went on to earn the Williams award a record five times. Under law school rules, a faculty member can win the Williams award only once every four years. Otherwise, colleagues speculate, he would have won the award even more often. Shellenberger has also been recognized by Temple University at large with the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching in 1995 and the Outstanding Faculty Service Award in 2011. He was named the James E. Beasley Chair in Law in 2007. And finally in 2012, the law school alumni chimed in, selecting Shellenberger as the inaugural recipient of the Murray Shusterman Award.

Today, the winner of the University Great Teacher Award continues to develop new courses and expand his expertise. As the co-director of Temple's summer programs, Shellenberger has taught in Japan and, since 2004, has traveled to Rome, Italy to supervise and teach in the program there. He collaborates with Freedman Teaching Fellows, many of whom cite him as a singular mentor in their scholarly careers. Former students are spread across the country and the world, where they serve as judges, prosecutors, defense lawyers, public servants, and in private firms. The nomination for the University Great Teacher Award concludes: "The very best teachers are not only able to convey information and skills, but to transform and inspire. Professor James Shellenberger falls into this select class of educators."

Written by Temple Law School

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