Gallery | The 2019 Levitan Teaching Awards recipients
Six MIT SHASS teachers honored for their dedication and passion.


Six extraordinary MIT SHASS teachers were honored this Spring with the Levitan Teaching Award. Presented each year, the award distinguishes these instructors as some of the finest at the Institute. 

Dean Melissa Nobles said, "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."  

The James A. And Ruth Levitan Teaching Award recognizes teachers across the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences who bring a special energy and passion to the classroom. Each year nominations pour in for instructors who have made a difference in their students' lives at MIT. This year's winners include two faculty members, three lecturers, and one teaching assistant. 

Congratulations, All! 

Gallery | The 2019 Levitan Teaching Awards Recipients

Marah Gubar
Associate Professor, Literature

Students praise Associate Professor Gubar's talent for bringing out the best in her students and her thoughtful and individualized attention to their work. Gubar fosters as a rich, diverse approach to her subject matter and is seen as a font of encouragement by her students. 

“Professor Gubar is very talented at creating a warm, welcoming atmosphere in the classroom where students feel open to share their thoughts with one another. She facilitates and guides discussion without dominating it, allowing the class to parse the text organically. Her feedback on written work is always thoughtful and encouraging. She is also incredibly supportive outside of the classroom. In conferences, she always asks about what else is going on in our lives, and if she thinks of some opportunity to which we're well suited, she will encourage us to apply. I feel so lucky to have had her as a professor.”

M. Amah Edoh
Assistant Professor, African Studies

Students praised Assistant Professor Edoh's willingness to put herself out there for her students as a source of advice and strength in difficult times. In addition to the enriching classroom experiences she creates with masterful management skills and keen critical discussions, Edoh's students write that she makes them feel valued for their ideas and that the class is not complete without each and every person's contributions.

“Learning is not just about having a professor transfer knowledge but also, about the life-long lessons that you pick up from teachers in the process and I believe Professor Edoh is a great example of a teacher who teaches students for life. The entire African and African-American student population has appreciated her support and representation here at MIT. She honors our invitations, regardless of how busy her schedule is. She opens her office to students, regardless of time of year. She encourages us to be the best we can be.”

Panpan Gao
Lecturer in Chinese

Panpan Gao's students say that she is extraordinary on many fronts. She goes above and beyond for her students, connecting with students on a personal level and nurturing their progress in the Chinese language by being generous with her time and thoughtfulness.

“She continues to give me encouragement when I have struggled and she has noticed in class when I am having a bad day and will take the time to understand what is going on. Any time I need extra help her office is always open. I can tell she really invests in and loves her students and it has had a huge impact on my love for the Chinese language. I cannot say enough for Panpan Gao. She deserves this award more than anyone and I give her my highest regards as a teacher.”

Frederick Harris
Lecturer, Music

A flood of nominator letters extolled Harris's devotion to his students and his subject matter, from bringing clementines to rehearsal to make sure everyone is getting their vitamin C to organizing benefit concerts to pushing students on an individual level. He makes sure his students are always learning — and gives some of the best pep talks.

“Fred Harris is unbelievable. Never before have I had a teacher send us emails after the night of a concert, thanking us for sharing the time and praising us for our efforts. The encouragement he gives us is unparalleled. It is so clear that this is not just a job for him. Fred lives and breathes this work. He lives and breathes to help his students. I know Fred has won this award before, but I can full-heartedly say that based on the impact he has had on all of us, on the students of MIT, on the people of Puerto Rico, on the people of the Dominican Republic, Fred is absolutely the most deserving person for the award this year as well."

Pouya Alimagham
Lecturer, History

Students reflect that Alimagham's classes live up to their excellent repution: he creates an energetic, engaging classroom where students do meaningful work and have a wonderful experience. Lecturing on subjects as vast as the history of Islam, Prof. Alimagham is praised by his students for his detailed and descriptive approach to teaching. 

“[Alimagham] was gracious with his time and asked us hard questions about how the course was going, if there were any improvements to be made, and what were things we thought were the most important to our own learning so far. He is a wealth of information and resources and was willing and able to share them with his students...I have never been in a class with such a wonderfully diverse set of people with regards to religion, background, gender, political ideology, and personality. The discussions were all the richer due to it, and I attribute the accumulation of such an engaged set of students to the draw of Pouya's classes.”

Liyang Sun
Teaching Assistant, Economics

A large number of students enthusiastically nominated Liyang (Sophie) Sun as one of the best instructors they have ever had. Through a combination of availability and dedication, Liyang was fundamental to the success of her students both in the classroom and as an advisor and mentor.

“Liyang was an incredible TA. She was very deeply involved in all aspects of the class - lectures, recitations, office hours, and online questions. I struggled immensely at the beginning of the course, and it was her patience and encouragement that helped me stay in the class and improve my performance in it. She showed great understanding of the material, often simplifying concepts so I understood them more clearly. She made me feel like I mattered and was a valuable member of that class; like I could get better if I kept pushing. I did get better, and it was her being a great teacher that played an instrumental role in that.”



Suggested links

Gallery of Levitan Teaching Award recipients 2009 —

Nominate an MIT SHASS instructor for the Levitan Teaching Award