Roni Natov Receives First Claire Tow Distinguished Teacher Award

Professor Roni Natov

Professor Roni Natov, a member of the Brooklyn College Department of English since 1969, has been awarded the first Claire Tow Distinguished Teacher Award for her unwavering commitment to teaching and the guidance and support she has extended to generations of Brooklyn College students, both in the classroom and beyond. The award, which comes with a $10,000 stipend, was established early this year by Leonard Tow, '50, in honor of his wife, who graduated from Brooklyn College in 1952. In Tow's words, the Distinguished Teacher Award has been set up to honor "the kind of teacher you would ideally like to have in your classrooms." It recognizes excellence in teaching, measured by skill and creativity in the classroom as well as dedication to students. The award will be presented to Professor Natov during Brooklyn College's eighth annual Faculty Day on May 25.

    A Brooklyn College graduate herself, Natov began teaching children's literature at the College several years before she received her Ph.D. in English from New York University. In 1977 she cofounded the multidisciplinary journal The Lion and the Unicorn: A Critical Journal of Children's Literature with her English Department colleague Geraldine DeLuca and coedited it until 1993. Her most recent book, The Poetics of Childhood (2003), constructs a thematic overview of children's literature from Lewis Carroll all the way up to J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series and was nominated for the Children's Literature Association Book Award and the International Society for Research in Children's Literature Book Award. She is the counselor for English majors, and for the last twenty-two years she has sponsored The English Major's Zine, an annual literary arts magazine. Besides teaching courses in the Victorian novel, postmodern fiction, fantasy, and women and literature, Natov also teaches the CUNY Honors College seminar "The Arts in New York City."

    Her availability to students is legendary and perhaps best exemplified by the sign on her office door: "No Need to Knock-If the Door Is Unlocked, Please Come In." Her emphasis on the individual person in her class has made her a favorite with students and has also shaped her philosophy of teaching. "I want my students to feel included-all of them," she explains. "I want them to feel that the class is theirs, that each comes to it with her skills or lack thereof, and with his beliefs, which may be affirmed and/or challenged but are respected, accepted, cared about, included. I want to obliterate, as much as possible, feelings of competition which, I deeply believe, separate us from each other and hamper creative work. I believe that the more afraid we are that we may not measure up, the less likely we are to move into that space that has not been already been occupied, that place of original, critical thinking. So I try to reassure my students that all their questions are welcome."

     Ultimately, Natov strives to help her students discover from their own perspectives how the literature they study fits into a larger world and context. Like the great children's authors she admires, Natov has never forgotten what it was like to be a child-or a confused freshman student-and her astonishing gift for an authentic and heartfelt empathy has helped her inspire untold numbers of Brooklyn College students.

   

 

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