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Professor Reuel Schiller is this year’s recipient of the William A. Rutter Teaching Award for Excellence. That essentially means that he was teacher of the year for University of California, Hastings College of the Law. Schiller is the first UC Hastings professor to win the Rutter award. The award was created from a fund donated by William A. Rutter in 1978, and has recognized teachers from UCLA Law School, UC Davis (King Hall), and USC Law School since 1978. UC Berkeley (Boalt Hall) was added in 1994. The UC Hastings Board of Directors authorized acceptance from the fund in December of 1999, and this is the first year a Hastings professor has been recognized in this way. Prior to this year, there wasn’t a “teacher of the year” per se at Hastings, but the outgoing class selects an “Outstanding Professor.” Last year’s recipient was Schiller. The year before that was Schiller. And the year before that was Schiller. Given that pedigree, this award was obviously well earned. It is also noteworthy that Schiller does not teach any first-year courses, which is where professors can typically garner a “following” of students. Nor does he teach bar courses, which are also well attended because students are — pragmatic. Schiller currently teaches Labor Law, Administrative Law, and American Legal History. Despite all this, his classes are large and enrollment is high. Selection for this award is done in a particular manner. When asked during an interview about how or why he thought he was selected, Schilller’s answer was, “I have no idea … I have seen many of [my colleagues] teach and I think they’re fantastic.” A committee that fulfills the criteria set forth by the fund does the selection. The members are: The Academic Dean, a student, an alumnus and a faculty member. The College Dean is also an ex-officio member. Criteria used by the committee are rather ambiguous, but indicators such as the PACE evaluations (filled out by students at the end of the semester), academic endeavors, peer perceptions, and reputation are among those factors considered. The William A. Rutter Teaching Award for Excellence is designed to honor those extraordinary law teachers whose classes are exciting and instructive, and who truly help their students understand what they are learning. Rutter believes that “their outstanding classroom performance usually reflects outstanding preparation and commitment.” “I was incredibly pleased to be selected for this award. Professors get very little feedback on their teaching; consequently, it’s particularly rewarding to have some indication that students like what we are doing,” said Schiller. “I enjoy teaching tremendously, so it’s nice to know that someone thinks that I’m doing it well.” So what does Schiller do that is so different and insightful that he has been acknowledged by both his peers and students? In Administrative Law and Labor Law, he uses what he characterizes as a “mellow Socratic method,” where students know in advance when they are on call. In American Legal History, he lectures for two days and then moderates a discussion panel of appointed experts for the third. This might not be a method of instruction that captures the imagination, so attitude and personality must comprise the rest of the equation. Perhaps a certain je ne sais quoi keeps attracting students to his classroom like moths to bug-zappers, but, hopefully with a distinctly different outcome. The rationale behind this award is that these outstanding teachers have the best reputations, and therefore the largest classes. This translates into extra work, extra students to counsel and extra examinations to grade, but no extra pay. Rutter stated, “[they] in fact may be penalized because they have less time for research and writing scholarly papers, which are the usual basis for salary increases at major universities.” When asked about how he’s going to spend the money, Schiller replied, “My wife and I just bought a house this summer, so the money will be going directly to the bank that holds our mortgage.” He thought that was a dull answer, probably because he’s not going to Tahiti over the winter break, but Hastings Law News commends Schiller’s prudence as well as his teaching ability. We hope he finds it in his heart to forgive his students and peers for costing him extra income tax liability.

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