Sharon James, a professor of classics at UNC, has been creating a unique classroom experience throughout her 22 years at the University — a skillfulness in teaching that prompted recognition from the UNC System.
James was among 17 award winners selected for the 2021 Awards for Excellence in Teaching by the UNC Board of Governors — which represent all 16 North Carolina public universities and the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics.
The award was established in 1993 to highlight the value and work of educators system-wide. Professors are nominated by committees at their respective institutions. Each nominee submitted a five-page statement on their teaching philosophy.
“I’m really surprised by this award, but I’m very honored,” James said in an email. “I hope it will show people that the classics department is teaching all kinds of exciting, inspiring, important courses — all my colleagues are dedicated, fantastic teachers.”
James teaches courses on Latin poetry, Roman comedy and women in ancient Greece and Rome.
She earned her undergraduate degree in Spanish literature and classical studies at the University of California at Santa Cruz. James went on to complete her master's degree and doctorate in comparative literature at the University of California-Berkeley.
Her professors at the University of California-Santa Cruz inspired her passion for classics through taking her seriously as an intellectual, James wrote. She dedicated her book, “Learned Girls and Male Persuasion: Gender and Reading in Roman Love Elegy,” to the professors who encouraged her to pursue her interest in ancient Mediterranean literature.
Now as a professor at UNC, James' courses focus on connecting the lives of people in the ancient Mediterranean to the world today.
“I was interested in classics before I came to college and started taking her classes,” senior classics majorGrace Miller said. “But she really helped me figure out what I wanted to do within classics and learn what classics was really about.”