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Winner of the CARA Award for Excellence in Teaching
2020 CARA Award for Excellence in Teaching

Sean Field (University of Vermont)

Frank Klaassen (University of Saskatchewan)


This year, CARA is again very pleased to recognize two scholars for excellence in teaching: Sean Field and Frank Klaassen

At the University of Vermont, Sean Field has had a profound impact through his leadership of Medieval Studies, through his teaching, and through the mentorship of students who go on to become excellent medievalists. Prof. Field teaches in the Department of History and in addition to his prodigious research and scholarly output, he has become a vital node in New England’s medieval studies network and, especially, in teaching and advising students. During his time at UVM, Sean founded and now oversees the annual Vermont Medieval Summit; he has invited a long line of distinguished international scholars to campus; and has promoted the loan of medieval manuscripts for student training and colloquia. As his students and colleagues attest, Prof. Field is also a rigorous, compassionate, and innovative teacher, who offers a wide array of courses that exemplify a stunning breadth of methodologies ranging in topics from medieval heresy, to love, sex, and marriage, and the inquisition. Prof. Field also prepares his students beyond the content of his classes, teaching them, as one student raved, “how to write, how to research, how to defend one’s ideas, how to manage-time, and how to strive and thrive within academia and the broader world.” Sean combines intellectual seriousness with a subtle but beloved humor and a gift for spurring conversation. His dedicated mentorship of students also extends long after graduation and he has remained a vital resource even as students go off to other programs or begin new pursuits. As his colleagues note, part of what makes Sean such an out-standing teacher, is his “rare gift for listening. [Indeed, he] has a manner of listening to questions, inspiring reflection,” and fostering dialogue, that provokes “each student to make it a point of honor to give their best.” Surely this is what we a hope for when we teach. Congratulations, Sean, on inspiring so many students and maintaining the excellence of our field.

Frank Klaassen teaches in the Department of History at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada, where he also serves as Director of the Classical, Medieval, and Renaissance Studies Program. For the past seventeen years, Frank has been an exemplary and inspiring teacher and is acclaimed for his innovative and creative approaches, especially through his use of games and public exhibits, but also through his mentorship of graduate students and his support for meaningful undergraduate inquiry. He finds myriad ways to integrate his own research on late medieval magic into his teaching. In 2018, he developed The Renaissance Marriage Game, which simulated marriage negotiations in pre-modern Italy. And in 2019, he created a card came called Virtus about medieval masculinity (available at http://historygames.usask.ca/). As one undergraduate commented, “Dr. Klaassen’s approach doesn't’ just teach about medieval history, but also prepares us for using the information learned in class for things other than research.” He teaches a senior undergraduate course on “Exhibiting History” that has resulted in student-curated exhibitions and asks students to delve deeply into research methodologies that could speak to the general public. In his upper-division and graduate courses, Prof. Klaassen often hands out weekly curated text-packets containing primary sources that he translated, transcribed, and collected for the students’ benefit. He integrates paleography training into his courses, giving students a profound sense of accomplishment and purpose through this practical engagement. Frank is one of those teachers whose laid-back style makes what he does seem magically effortless, yet the results are rigorous and effective. Enthusiastic about employing non-traditional methods, Prof. Klaassen has inspired and educated a generation of new students and aspiring medievalists and has cultivated an enduring love for medieval studies. As one student wrote: “Whether in person, at the head of a classroom, or through his writing, Frank Klaassen is a truly inspirational and dedicated teacher who balances an unyielding demand for excellence with his compassion and sense of play.” Congratulations, Frank; this is an honor well-deserved!
Copyright ©2020 The Medieval Academy of America
Opinions expressed by members in print, video, or online represent their personal views, not necessarily those of the Medieval Academy of America.

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