Prof. Samuel Jaffee Receives Distinguished Teaching Award

Submitted by Casey Colvin on
Samuel Jaffee

Samuel Jaffee, Associate Teaching Professor of Spanish in the Department of Spanish & Portuguese Studies at the University of Washington, was awarded a 2022 Distinguished Teaching Award.  The award is the highest university-wide honor for innovative instruction, curricular development, and mentorship.

“It’s a tremendous honor” said Jaffee, who views the award as not just a recognition of his own abilities, but of the skill of the department faculty as a whole. “I hope that all of my colleagues can see themselves recognized by extension, as this award confers value on the work we all do in Spanish & Portuguese Studies”.

Donald Gilbert-Santamaría, Associate Professor of Spanish and Department Chair, expressed his enthusiasm for Jaffee’s award: “It is truly gratifying to see Professor Jaffee’s extraordinary work in the classroom recognized through this award, the University’s highest honor for teaching.” He went on to recognize Jaffee’s efforts: “Above all, this award speaks to Professor Jaffee’s profound dedication to the department’s educational mission of providing our students with a world-class liberal arts education.  We are indeed very fortunate to have him as a colleague.”

Professor Tony Geist recalled his early impressions of Jaffee when he arrived at UW: “When Sam joined our department he had just finished his dissertation and completed his PhD at UC Irvine….When he began teaching content courses Sam asked me to review his syllabi, which I was happy to do. I made suggestions and was impressed by his intellectual and pedagogical commitment.”

Another of Jaffee’s colleagues spoke highly of his contributions to the department. “Sam is clearly a teacher’s teacher” said Professor Ana Gómez-Bravo. “[Jaffee] is a conscientious, generous, and imaginative teacher. Sam has created several new courses in Latin American literature, culture and cinema that have filled long-standing needs in our department and have been extremely well received by our students.” Gomez-Bravo noted that Jaffee’s approachable nature and collaborative attitude has aided his professional impact: “His helpful and kind demeanor does much to create an environment of collegiality and cooperation that enables him to maximize his impact inside and outside of the classroom.”

“I have had the great fortune to have taken two classes with Sam” said Teresa Ramon Joffré, a former student of Jaffee’s and current SPS graduate student. “He always made us feel comfortable to express our views and provided opportunities for the students to achieve our highest potentials…He was always available for questions either in person or email and his answers were very thorough and personalized. I could see he is a dedicated and generous instructor as well as very knowledgeable of his field.”

Summing up his teaching philosophy, Jaffee spoke of his efforts to motivate and engage all students: “Plainly speaking, I aim to create a class community where the student with the least-developed interest in studying the subject will speak and write and learn the most, and be supported by her peers in sharing her progress.”  Every student who comes into the classroom brings something that can positively impact the experience for all: “Each student also brings something into the room that can change the outcome. I think the trick is to find that nugget within each student’s imagination, and give opportunities for it to develop in ways that you can't yet predict (keeping in mind, of course, that it might be as simple as asking students to ask the questions).”

When asked what his advice to other instructors would be, he advocated a dynamic approach: “Obviously, don't be afraid to do things differently if they're not working. But I would like to offer this idea as what I consider a healthy standpoint for a sustainable career: Don't be afraid to change your approach when things are going well!”

Samuel Jaffee joined the faculty of the Department of Spanish & Portuguese Studies in 2013, and was promoted to Associate Teaching Professor in 2020. He earned his PhD in Spanish from the University of California, Irvine, in 2013, his MA is Spanish from Washington University in St. Louis in 2006, and his BA in Spanish from Kenyon College in 2004.

By Casey Colvin