Penn State Harrisburg

Jaster wins award for inspiring students through Shakespeare

Dr. Margaret Jaster at The American Shakespeare Center

Dr. Margaret Jaster at The American Shakespeare Center

Dr. Margaret Jaster, Penn State Harrisburg associate professor of English and humanities, of Middletown, has received The American Shakespeare Center’s 2013 Words in Action Award. It was the second year in a row Jaster was nominated for the honor, which is based on student recommendations and the quality of learning that students display.

The award, presented annually on Shakespeare’s birthday, recognizes teachers from elementary to university levels whose approach to Shakespeare inspires students and personifies Shakespeare’s advice to be “great in act as you have been in thought.” A plaque bearing her name will be displayed in the main lobby of The American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, Va., the world’s only re-creation of an indoor renaissance theatre that preforms plays in OP (original practice) version.

Student nominations highlighted Jaster’s extensive Shakespeare knowledge, accessible teaching style, and ability to engage students:

“Her lesson plans play well off one another, so I feel that I am receiving an extremely in-depth education on all areas of Shakespeare, from historical context, to his works themselves, to his contemporaries. It’s the most multi-dimensional learning experience I’ve ever had.”

“Dr. Jaster is an incredible teacher. She has a vast, incomparable knowledge of Shakespeare, which she passes on to her students in fun, creative ways. She has helped me understand Shakespeare’s life and his works more fully and completely.”

“If there are two things Dr. Jaster loves, it’s Shakespeare and her students. Her enthusiasm for Shakespeare is contagious and it’s obvious she loves what she does.”

Jaster also encourages Shakespeare education by planning yearly visits to The American Shakespeare Center with her students. This year she was accompanied by the “Renaissance Ramblers,” a group of 27 students and faculty interested in the Renaissance that she helped create within the college’s newly re-formed Humanities Club. During the four-day trip, the group attended lectures, participated in workshops and classes, and saw English Renaissance plays in OP version.

“It occurred to me that this resource was less than four hours away, was the only re-creation of an indoor renaissance theatre in the world which preforms the plays in OP,” Jaster said. “OP means that the audience and actors are in the same lighting space, which really affects the audience and how people experience the performance.”

“Getting to see a performance in theatre that you read in print is really beneficial. It gives you different points of view, and you get to experience the actors’ perceptions of the characters they play,” said sophomore secondary education English major David Geiger. “Given the chance, I would definitely go back again.”

View images of the Renaissance Ramblers’ visit to The American Shakespeare Center on Flickr.

Students interested in joining the Humanities Club are invited to e-mail Jaster at mrj4@psu.edu