William & Mary Law School’s Kern-Scheerer Receives Thomas Jefferson Teaching Award at Charter Day

Professor Stacy Kern-Scheerer, director of clinical programs, director of Immigration Clinic, and clinical associate professor of law at William & Mary Law School, has been named this year’s winner of the Thomas Jefferson Teaching Award. She and recipients of other awards were recognized during the Feb. 10 Charter Day ceremony, which commemorates the university’s founding in 1693 by royal charter. Read more about the Charter Day award winners.

Professor Kern-Scheerer is known for enhancing each area of the Law School that she touches with her teaching. These include the classroom, Immigration Clinic, curriculum offerings and delivery, and, most of all, her students.

“She is the epitome of a dedicated and passionate teacher, who has unwavering support for her students and tirelessly advocates for the clients of the William & Mary Law School Immigration Clinic,” a nominator wrote.

The Thomas Jefferson Teaching Award “recognizes a teaching member of the William & Mary community who has demonstrated, through concern as a teacher and through character and influence, the inspiration and stimulation of learning to the betterment of the individual and society as exemplified by Thomas Jefferson.” 

Kern-Scheerer is a role model and mentor for students as they decide how best to use their law degrees for the good of others in the community.

“Words cannot express how honored I feel to receive the Jefferson Teaching Award,” Kern-Scheerer said. “When I first began teaching, I could not have imagined the extraordinary sense of joy, pride and excitement I have as I’ve watched my students grow, graduate and go on to do incredible things in this world. Through teaching I, too, have grown immensely as a person, and I am filled with gratitude to be able to do what I love.”

She has contributed to the breadth of the law school curriculum, taught extra courses and, during the COVID-19 lockdown, led a committee to help faculty and administrators determine how to successfully deliver course material. Kern-Scheerer has taught courses on immigration law, legal writing, health law and policy, food and drug law and the opioid crisis. She has also served as assistant director of the Legal Practice Program. Outside of the law school, Kern-Scheerer has demonstrated her commitment to civic engagement through her recent election to Williamsburg City Council.

She is most lauded for her passionate leadership as founding director of the Immigration Clinic, where she trains and supervises clinic students representing noncitizens in the greater Hampton Roads community seeking humanitarian forms of relief. She and the students under her supervision represent immigrant victims of crime, domestic violence and human trafficking, as well as immigrants seeking asylum, DACA holders and individuals applying for naturalization.

“She saw a need for something new: an immigration clinic to provide more hands-on learning opportunities for our students and to serve the community,” a nominator wrote. “Since Stacy created it in fall 2019, our immigration clinic has been thriving, winning its first asylum case and making news by assisting Afghan refugees with visa and residency applications.”

The impact Kern-Scheerer makes on not just the clients but also the students in the immigration clinic “is nothing short of life changing,” a nominator wrote. For example, one student wrote about his experience on the immigration student blog: “I thought the case was a perfect example of the power of having an attorney. … Without us, our clients would have walked into the hearing unaware of their options, would have likely lost their case, and would have likely been deported.”

Students having such a tremendous experience “comes directly from Stacy’s passion, perseverance, and tremendous personal character,” according to a nominator.

Kern-Scheerer has previously won the law school’s highest teaching awards — the Walter L. Williams, Jr. Teaching Award twice and the McGlothlin Teaching Award — and was appointed as Kelly Professor for Teaching Excellence. Effusive student comments “speak to her excellence, dedication and capacity to inspire,” a nominator wrote.

“I always tell my students to remember that they are human beings before they are lawyers. I try to instill in my students that the skills they are learning in my classes — how to discern and ask critical questions, how to truly listen to clients and colleagues, how to build trust with clients and community partners, how to use your abilities to advocate for others, how to recover from mistakes and admit when you need help, how to learn to take care of yourself  – these are skills that transcend a profession and apply to the full measure of how we each operate in the world, not just at work,” Kern-Scheerer said.

“I strive to teach my students these skills not just through my words, but through my actions. I am so thankful to my colleagues and students for trusting in me over the years, and I am grateful for this award.”