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Snake-handling Pentecostals in Appalachia, Muslim feminists in the Middle East, and leaders in the Central American peace movement: These are a few of the many religious groups Jerome Baggett encourages his students to explore and “to see.” Baggett is the 2008 recipient of the Sarlo Excellence in Teaching Award, which recognizes the values of interreligious sensitivity and commitment, interdisciplinary approach and content in teaching, sensitivity to ethnic and cultural diversity, and creative classroom pedagogical methods and performance. “We conflate religion with ‘official’ religion, that is, clerical authority, doctrines, hymns -- and we often mistake religion for ‘a’ religion,” says Baggett. “My goal is to get students out of my classroom and into the Bay Area ‘religious classroom’ to experience a diversity of lived religions.”
Baggett describes himself as “promiscuous” in teaching methodology, combining lectures with class-led discussion, and movie nights. Recently he and his students watched Jesus Camp over pizza and beer. He says, “I try to figure out what the job is, and then use the appropriate tools, much like a carpenter.”
“My goal is to get students out of my classroom and into the Bay Area ‘religious classroom’ to experience a diversity of lived religions.”
What does he most want for his students? “For them to be happy -- ” and that has to do with “developing a deep understanding of “the other,” seeing the world in a nuanced and critical way, having humility, and serving a higher truth, however one defines that.” On receiving the Sarlo Award, Baggett humbly quotes Aristotle: ‘A single swallow does not a summer make.’
“That is,” he says, “It’s hard to know if you’re a good teacher until perhaps the end of the summer, or the end of one’s career.” If the esteem in which he is held by students and colleagues is any judge, Baggett has seen more than a single swallow take wing.
“I selected GTU for doctoral studies so I could work with Jerome Baggett. He is passionate about teaching, insightful, thoughtful, and takes the time to work with all who are eager to learn.”
-- Allison Tanner, GTU doctoral student
Sarlo, motivated by his family’s experience in the Holocaust during World War II, supports the GTU’s work to educate leaders who will promote justice and peace among people of diverse religions and cultures. Each year, students and faculty honor a faculty member for his/her creativity in guiding students to this end -- with the Sarlo Excellence in Teaching Award.