Helen Hershkoff receives the University's Distinguished Teaching Award

Helen Hershkoff, Herbert M. and Svetlana Wachtell Professor of Constitutional Law and Civil Liberties, has been honored with New York University’s 2014-15 Distinguished Teaching Award. Established in 1987, the award highlights faculty throughout the University for “exceptional teaching inside and outside of the classroom setting.”

Helen Hershkoff

A co-author of Civil Procedure: Cases and Materials, Hershkoff teaches Procedure to first-year law students as well as Federal Courts and the Federal System, courses notorious for their challenging material. She also serves as co-director of the Arthur Garfield Hays Civil Liberties Program and as faculty adviser to the NYU Journal of Legislation and Public Policy. Prior to coming to NYU Law almost two decades ago, she worked as a staff attorney with the Legal Aid Society of New York and as an associate legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union. Before joining the Legal Aid Society, she was a litigation associate at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison.

In glowing letters to the selection committee, current and former students applauded Hershkoff’s manner in the classroom. Alessandra Baniel-Stark JD/MA ’16, a Procedure student, wrote, “Professor Hershkoff has figured out ways to ensure that, while her students still learn the material and feel some of the heat of the Socratic system, they have a fair opportunity to excel at every turn.”

Video: Sarah Dowd ’15 on how Hershkoff brings Procedure to life

Others commended Hershkoff’s compassion and support outside the classroom—during office hours, over lunches, and via e-mail—be it providing practical career advice or checking in on a sick student. A group of current and recent Hays Fellows described Hershkoff’s regular end-of-semester invitation to eat out in Greenwich Village. “She helps to create a safe space where we can further explore our legal quandaries, express our concerns about our future careers, and even confess our doubts about the possibility of effecting change through the law.” Like many others, Vinay Harpalani ’09, now an associate professor of law at Savannah Law School, relied on Hershkoff’s support beyond law school. During his tenure-track application process, he wrote, Hershkoff went “above and beyond the call of duty.”

On April 23, Hershkoff and five other recipients from around the University were honored at a formal dinner, at which each received a medal and a $5,000 award. In her acceptance, she said that “it’s the students who make the enterprise of teaching worthwhile.”

“Whether they work in government, or in legal services, at a private firm or in industry, whether they teach or run companies, my students are using the law in creative and important ways. They are trying to make the world more joyful, and they know that with shared hard work, we can use law to make the world a better place.”

Past recipients of NYU’s Distinguished Teaching Award include Rachel Barkow, Segal Family Professor of Regulatory Law and Policy; University Professor Anthony Amsterdam; Peggy Cooper Davis, John S. R. Shad Professor of Lawyering and Ethics; Vice Dean Randy Hertz; Burt Neuborne, Inez Milholland Professor of Civil Liberties; Professor Bryan Stevenson; and Professor Anthony Thompson.

April 27, 2015