Kate Stearns Honored for Teaching

While on sabbatical this past fall, English teacher Kate Stearns taught a course called Faith and Doubt in the Writing Program at Harvard.
The course included a unit on spiritual autobiographies by Darwin, Tolstoy, Simone Weil, and Malcolm X and a second unit on the Civil War poetry of Whitman and Dickinson related to the theological concept of theodicy--a term for the attempt to reconcile human suffering with belief. The class also read This Republic of Suffering, by Harvard president Drew Gilpin Faust, to establish the historical context for the second part. And for the third unit, on the intersection of faith and politics, students wrote research papers on the role of religion in the presidential campaign.

Dr. Stearns says she wanted to teach the class, in part, to see exactly what Harvard was asking students to do as writers in their first, and required, writing course. "I've been able to bring back to my classroom here a number of ideas from the experience," Dr. Stearns notes, "which was both great fun and a chance to explore a subject of particular interest to me. I am more convinced than ever that our emphasis in the English Department at Belmont Hill on close reading and analysis--as well as our use of the Harkness tables to encourage active engagement--serves our students very well."

For this work, Dr. Stearns was recently awarded a certificate of distinction in teaching. The certificate acknowledges the excellence of her work with students and the strength of her commitment to teaching.

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