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.”