Two Cooley faculty members selected as "Best Law Teachers" in the Nation

 Cooley is the only law school with two faculty members featured in book 

LANSING, MICH. (Sept. 11, 2013) –Thomas M. Cooley Law School has the distinction of being the only law school in the country with two members of its faculty featured in the recently published book What the Best Law Teachers Do (Harvard University Press, 2013). The book names Associate Dean Nelson Miller and Professor Phillip J. Prygoski as two of the 26 “best law teachers” in the United States. 

Authored by Professor Gerry Hess, of Gonzaga University School of Law; Professor Sophie Sparrow, of the University of New Hampshire School of Law; and Michael Hunter Schwartz, Dean and Professor of Law at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law, the book is the culmination of a four-year study that sought to identify extraordinary law teachers. The study details the attributes and practices of professors who have a significant, positive, and long-term effect on their students. 

“It comes as no surprise that Cooley has two professors listed as the best in their profession. Cooley is extremely fortunate to have Nelson Miller and Phil Prygoski named as two of the ‘best law faculty’ in the country,” said Cooley Law School Associate Dean of Faculty Charles Cercone. “Cooley has strived to bring only the best practitioners into the rank of the school’s professors since its beginning in 1973. We are honored to have both Phil and Nelson on our team.”  

Each chapter in What the Best Law Teachers Do focuses on a theme common to all of these outstanding law teachers, including: how they relate to students, prepare for class, teach, provide feedback and assess their students’ learning, as well as what they expect of their students, and the personal qualities they share.

 

Prygoski is credited in the book as being passionate and told the authors, “I think a big part of motivation  . . . is the passion for the subject . . . and if they (the students) see that you’re passionate, you’re jacked up about it, and that you care, they’re going to buy into it.” 

As part of the research for the book, the authors visited each of their 26 subjects at their respective law schools so they could observe classroom behavior and conduct lengthy interviews with professors, deans, colleagues, students, and alumni. Most often, according to Sparrow, the authors left these visits feeling moved, inspired, and excited to make changes to their own teaching methods based on what they observed and heard. 

A student of Miller’s is quoted in the book as saying, “At the end of the term he gave this 20-minute talk about the importance of torts and the relevance today, and I left feeling really fired up because he was fired up about it . . . It’s like, here’s something to get excited about; here’s a way to make a difference in the world.” 

According to Hess, “All of the teachers we studied are regarded as being among the most rigorous professors at their law schools, that have high expectations of every student, yet they also are known for their kindness to their students. They foster self-confidence in their students and inspire in them a belief that they are capable of great things. They get to know their students as people and manifest caring and respect for their students. These teachers model hard work, creativity, and humility.”