Earlier this month, Leora Eisenstadt of the Department of Legal Studies was awarded Temple University’s c, which recognizes and honors faculty members who epitomize the highest levels of sustained teaching excellence in a classroom, laboratory or clinical setting.
In addition to being an associate professor at the Fox School of Business, Eisenstadt is the founding director of the Center for Ethics, Diversity and Workplace Culture (CEDWC) at the Fox School and is a Murray Shusterman Research Fellow.
A graduate of the New York University School of Law in 2005, Eisenstadt previously worked as a federal law clerk and a labor and employment attorney. She transitioned to teaching as a Abraham L. Freedman Teaching Fellow at the Beasley School of Law in 2011 before moving to the Fox School in 2013.
The Fox Editorial Team caught up with Eisenstadt to discuss what the distinguished teaching award means for her both professionally and personally.
Fox: How does it feel to receive this honor?
Eisenstadt: It feels like a real reinforcement that this is the right thing for me to be doing, and that I’m meant to be here. I’ve worked very hard to create new kinds of classes and new ways to teach students, and it really feels like an awesome acknowledgement of that.
Fox: Did you ever feel or question whether or not that this was your calling?
Eisenstadt: I wasn’t positive that I was ever going to make that transition from being a lawyer to professor. Early in my legal career, I sort of had inklings that I wanted to teach, but it took me a while to get here. This feels like I made the right choice.
Fox: What is your teaching style in the classroom?
Eisenstadt: There are a few things that I try to bring to the classroom. One is enthusiasm for what I’m teaching. I try to connect lessons to the real world. I think students can sense that enthusiasm and that openness to engage them in their thought process about what we’re learning. I don’t lecture. Everything I do is sort of a modified Socratic method. I teach through questions, and I’m very committed to getting my students to participate in the learning process.
Fox: What are some of your most memorable teaching experiences throughout your career?
Eisenstadt: The first time I taught Legal and Policy Issues in the Workplace, it was a small class. I probably had 25 students. I taught a unit on sexual harassment, and I didn’t really know how they were going to handle this kind of legal information. I brought in clips from shows like Mad Men to show them what sexual harassment actually looks like. We had this wide-ranging discussion about why people harass, what motivates harassment, that it’s an expression of power and not necessarily about sex. They got passionate about that, and they understood these high-level concepts, asking really deep questions about what sexual harassment means and how it works and so on. That definitely stands out for me.
I also think about the first time I ran the pre-law internship program where I placed students in law-related internships around the city. Hearing the students’ feedback in the class, the ways in which their internship experiences (often their first substantive work opportunity) changed them personally and professionally, has been really important and motivating for me.
Fox: How do you balance both research and teaching?
Eisenstadt: It’s hard. In the time of COVID-19, it’s even harder. I love writing, and I love my research. I struggle to find the time for it because I can’t do it in two-hour blocks. I need eight-hour blocks to get things done, to get my head back into where it needs to be to write. Lately, I’ve devoted one solid day a week, and sometimes I can fit in another half day. I just refuse to book anything else that day. I look at my email quickly in the morning and then I put everything else away and just write. It’s a lot harder from home, especially when my kids are in online school. I have definitely struggled over the last year to get back to it, but I feel better and more at peace when I have at least one day of writing.
Fox: What have you heard from students over the years about your impact on them?
Eisenstadt: Looking back, I received an email one time from a student that said, “I thoroughly enjoyed both of your classes and having you as a professor over the last few years, as you created one of the best atmospheres for learning in any classroom I have been in. In other words, you helped push me outside my comfort-zone in order to truly elevate my ability as a student. I have taken that guidance and applied it to other classes, work, and everyday life, which has helped me continue to progress as a student and as a person.” It was nice for me to look back!