The winner of this year’s Daniels-Danieley Award for Excellence in Teaching, Cassie Kircher, professor of English, is hailed for her insightful classroom discussions and commitment to student development.
Cassie Kircher is described as a gifted teacher who is inspirational and patiently persistent.
“Whether she is trying to inspire a student to write a better draft of an essay or quietly seeking ways to fund and support the service-learning creative writing class she has long aspired to establish, Dr. Kircher doesn’t give up,” a colleague says.
As a professor of English and published essayist and nature writer, the majority of Kircher’s teaching is in creative writing, specifically nonfiction creative writing.
“Cassie’s teaching is very much informed by her own work as a creative writer,” a colleague says. “Her primary area of expertise—creative nonfiction—is in a genre that is still in the process of defining itself. Cassie’s students enjoy the challenge of experimenting with different forms of the essay, and perhaps even with helping to solidify definitions of the genre itself. She uses a workshop model in her creative writing courses, and her students speak highly of her guidance and mentorship in this capacity.”
Regardless of the level of the courses Kircher teaches, she is an attentive instructor and mentor. Students tout her as the reason they pursued graduate school or have confidence in their writing and research.
“I learned more in her classes than I learned in any other class at Elon, and during both semesters I was lucky enough to take a course with her, I could actually feel myself improving,” a former student says. “Her ability to break down famous works, lead insightful discussions and critique student writing until the heart of a piece is revealed all helped me improve my craft substantially.”
For many students, Kircher is the reason they stepped out of their comfort zones, applied what they learned and excelled.
“While I may not have been the most engaged student at all times, Cassie is a professor with the incredible ability to inspire a student,” a former student says. “She knew exactly when to question, when to prod, and when to push. She understands the psyche of a college students, but also know when to challenge one.”
More than 70 sections of English 110, a core course, are offered to students every year, and Kircher regularly teaches it and participates in course design groups with colleagues to keep her teaching fresh.
“She knows how essential writing is for the success of every Elon student, whether they wish to pursue it as an art form, as she does, or if they perceive it more as a tool necessary for personal and professional success,” a colleague says.
Kircher’s “care and insight” have left their mark on many students. “Outside of class, students will find that Cassie is more than a phenomenal instructor,” a former student says. “She is an advocate for her students and their work, a quality that is rare, but I believe essential to a student’s success.”
In the more than 20 years she has spent at Elon, Kircher has served as a classroom teacher, student mentor and adviser. She also has held numerous leadership roles, including co-adviser to the Arts and Letters Living/Learning Community, co-chair of the Second Language Proficiency Committee, leader of the Liberal Arts Forum, adviser to Visions and Colonnades, faculty adviser for the Carret Essay Contest, CATL Scholar, Sustainability Faculty Scholar, Service-Learning Faculty Scholar as well as chair of the Academic Council.
She is the 43rd Elon faculty member to receive the award established by President Emeritus J. Earl Danieley ’46 and his late wife, Verona Daniels Danieley, in honor of their parents.