Last modified: Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Distinguished Teaching Award -- The Herman Frederic Lieber Memorial Award
Associate Professor of English
Department of English
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
University Graduate School
Indiana University East
Appointed to IU faculty, 1999
B.A., Oakland University (Michigan), 1989
M.A., University of Illinois, 1991
Ph.D., University of Illinois, 1996
"Many teachers are good at what they do," says Paul Kriese, professor of political science at Indiana University East. "They inspire their students. They challenge their students. They push their students beyond where these students think they can go. Here is where Alisa [Clapp-Itnyre] stands out as exceptional. Alisa does not just tell her students how literature and the craft of English enrich, ennoble, and stimulate a student's life; she takes her students there."
Whether literally traveling with a group of IU East students to the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Canada for impressions of Shakespeare's England or figuratively accompanying students to the medieval England of Chaucer through a piece of literature, Clapp-Itnyre enthusiastically promotes her personal creed (and one that the School of Humanities and Social Sciences has adopted as its motto)—"Arts for a lifetime."
Clapp-Itnyre's composition and literature classes—which include Victorian, medieval, children's, and young-adult literature—can feel somewhat akin to time travel as she pulls materials featuring relevant historical and socioeconomic context, art, theatre, music, and even food and fashion, from her instructional bag of tricks. Believing that literature cannot be fully understood without knowing what other artistic movements were taking place simultaneously, Clapp-Itnyre employs this teaching method to give students a jump on reaching one of her goals for them—that they become interdisciplinarians with an appreciation of the interconnectedness of the arts.
To encourage them toward a second goal—that they become scholars in the field—Clapp-Itnyre introduces students to the history, theories, and scholarship in a particular field of literature through published papers and encourages them to discuss and debate what they have read to hone their own critical thinking skills. Students attend and participate in conferences, meet authors, and enter essay contests.
They learn that even Babar the Elephant is not exempt from scholarly debate, and that their own researched and well-argued points of view are as valid as the published critiques they have read. Clapp-Itnyre writes that "active learning—where students are active in selecting texts, guiding discussion, and leading the learning"—defines her classes. With class participants acting out scenes from Shakespeare, creating skits on fast food and obesity, or researching the proposed I-69 highway through Indiana, her students become, with Clapp-Itnyre's help, social leaders who make a difference—her third goal for them.
Clapp-Itnyre encourages community connections through a variety of opportunities. When her young-adult literature class was reading Anne of Green Gables, she gave her students extra credit for helping with makeup and wardrobe and running sound for the local civic theatre production of the story, which she was directing. In 2000, she initiated a service-learning project at the local Boys and Girls Club, and her students still accompany her to a weekly story hour to read picture books to the children there and encourage them to enjoy reading. Clapp-Itnyre also created a highly popular and successful honors class that pairs IU East students with "reluctant readers" at Richmond High School.
Invariably described as enthusiastic, charismatic, energetic, creative, passionate, approachable, and friendly by students, administrators, and fellow professors, Clapp-Itnyre is a favorite teacher and a highly respected colleague who has successfully and prolifically written grant proposals, presented and published papers, won awards, and, always, given generously of her time to students. She is the director of the IU East Honors Program, which she developed along with colleagues, and the sponsor of the campus's Humanities Club. She supervises numerous independent studies, in which her students have tackled interdisciplinary projects such as writing and illustrating a children's picture book on Vincent Van Gogh and studying Broadway musical incarnations of literature.
Clapp-Itnyre's work embodies her personal motto in the learning experiences she creates for her students, experiences woven of stories, art, music, theatre, history, scholarship, and service to community. "Through these experiences," she says, "students learn that arts are for a lifetime; that critical thinking makes them part of the scholarly world in powerful ways; and that all aspects of their learning can be channeled into contributing to the world around them."