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David Sklansky Wins UC Berkeley Distinguished Teaching Award

David Sklansky

By Andrew Cohen

The honors keep piling up for Professor David Sklansky, who received UC Berkeley’s Distinguished Teaching Award April 26 during a ceremony at Zellerbach Playhouse. Before joining the Berkeley Law faculty in 2005, he was twice named UCLA School of Law’s Professor of the Year and also won a campus-wide distinguished teaching award. Last year, Berkeley Law’s graduating students chose him to be their commencement speaker.

“My parents were both teachers, so I grew up with a lot of respect for the job,” said Sklansky, who teaches criminal law, criminal procedure, and evidence. “I like teaching for many of the same reasons I liked being a student: the excitement of the classroom encounter, the challenge of unpacking ideas, and the joy of a sharing an intellectual adventure.”

The annual Distinguished Teaching Award is UC Berkeley’s most prestigious honor for its educators. Sklansky and four others received this year’s award, which recognizes teaching excellence that incites intellectual curiosity in students and engages them in the enterprise of learning. Sklansky is the 13th member of the law faculty to receive the award.

Despite the numerous teaching accolades, Sklansky hasn’t rested on his laurels; he continues to tinker with his methods. “I’ve become a little less scripted and a little more improvisational,” he said. “I’ve also increased my use of images and video clips, although I’ve learned with time not to overdo that.”

Sklansky credits his students and colleagues at Berkeley Law with helping him continue to improve as a teacher. “Berkeley Law students are engaged, demanding, and intellectually restless,” he said. “And this is a faculty full of extraordinary educators, including nationally renowned teachers of evidence, criminal law, and criminal procedure. I’ve benefited greatly from their guidance from the moment I arrived.”

After graduating from Harvard Law School in 1984, Sklansky clerked for Judge Abner Mikva of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun. He briefly practiced labor law at the Washington, D.C., firm of Bredhoff & Kaiser, and then worked as a federal prosecutor in Los Angeles before returning to academia from 1987 to 1994. During that time, he specialized in white-collar fraud prosecutions.

A prolific scholar, Sklansky produced two books over the past year—the third edition of his evidence casebook and a co-edited collection of essays, Police Reform from the Bottom Up: Officers and Their Unions as Agents of Change. Sklansky was appointed to an endowed faculty chair in 2009. He is a faculty affiliate of both the Center for the Study of Law and Society and the Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy's program on criminal justice.

The campus-wide Committee on Teaching, which selects the recipients of the Distinguished Teaching Award, has posted a video profile of the five 2012 recipients, as well as a video of the award ceremony.