It is of vital importance to West Virginia University English professor Jim Harms for his students to see poetry as a fundamental part of their culture.
His conviction and passion for literary writing is why Harms is being recognized with the 2009-10 Caperton Award for Excellence in the Teaching of Writing.
“Jim Harms’ contributions to the teaching of writing in our department have been extraordinary. He was instrumental in the founding of our Master of Fine Arts program and has developed countless new courses for us,” said Donald E. Hall, chair of the WVU Department of English. “Students’ lives are changed because of his passionate and caring work in the writing classroom. He is an outstanding teacher of writing and an outstanding choice for the Caperton Award for Excellence in the Teaching of Writing.”
The award was first established at WVU in 2008, and is supported by former West Virginia Gov. Gaston Caperton. It seeks to improve student skills by recognizing tenured faculty members who are dedicated and proficient in teaching writing.
As part of the award, Harms will receive $5,000 to use as a salary supplement, savings bond or compensation for research materials. He will also be recognized during WVU’s annual Honors Convocation, held in early April.
“Teaching is a splendid complement to my life as an artist,” Harms wrote in his award application. “If I am a good teacher who manages to maintain a vital career as a writer, it is because I make sure that the two are closely identified with each other: I teach who I am and what I do, and my sense of self is strengthened by making sure that I serve the art as I serve my students.”
Harms is the author of six books of poetry. He served as the director of WVU’s Creative Writing program for 14 years.
He has been recognized as a Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching/CASE West Virginia Professor of the Year, a WVU Foundation Outstanding Teacher, an Outstanding Teacher in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences and a Claude Worthington Benedum Distinguished Scholar, among others.
Harms regularly holds poetry workshops and requires his students to attend poetry readings, participate in residency programs, submit work to the University’s award-winning campus literary magazine “Calliope,” enter annual writing contests and scholarship competitions and attend conferences, among other things.
By Colleen DeHart
WVU News & Information Services
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