Three people stand together holding plaques for winning the UW Law Teacher of the Year Award. The first, starting from the left, is a tall, blonde woman wearing black with blue slacks and black shoes; the middle is an average height woman wearing purple and a patterned skirt with tall brown boots; and the third is a middle-aged man wearing a dark suit jacket over a light shirt, striped tie, and beige slacks and shoes.
(Pictured, from left) Rachel Burg, Megan McDermott and Judge Phillip Koss were named 2023 Teachers of the Year.

Each spring, University of Wisconsin Law School celebrates excellence in teaching through its Teacher of the Year awards. UW Law School's annual teaching awards demonstrate the value placed on excellent teaching. Our faculty engage and inspire UW Law students through thoughtful pedagogy, and we are proud to honor them for this important work.

"One of the distinct pleasures I have as dean is working with our extraordinary and dedicated faculty and seeing daily the transformative effect they have on our students," said Dean Dan Tokaji during an awards ceremony on March 15.

The honorees for outstanding classroom, clinical and adjunct instruction in 2023 include:

Megan McDermottClassroom Teacher of the Year

McDermott has been teaching at the Law School since 2013. Her legal experience includes private practice at Covington & Burling, service as an assistant U.S. attorney and administrative practice with the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families. She also served as a law clerk to former Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, staff attorney for the Wisconsin Court of Appeals and a hearing examiner for Milwaukee County.

Prior to attending law school, McDermott worked as a consultant to investment banks and an aide to Massachusetts Governor William Weld.

McDermott writes and publishes in the fields of professional ethics, litigation practice and process, and bankruptcy. She was the 2016 recipient of the Warren Burger Prize from the American Inns of Court and recipient of the 2015 Gordon S. Sinykin Award of Excellence from the Wisconsin State Bar for her public education work with the Our Courts Wisconsin program.

According to student evaluations that led to McDermott receiving the Classroom Teacher of the Year award, "Professor McDermott does a fantastic job at presenting the information and facilitating our learning in an organized and engaging way. You can tell she puts a lot of thought into how to structure the class and how to best convey the core subject matter principles. … She is a fantastic professor who really cares about her students and their law school experience, in the class and beyond. I wish Professor McDermott taught more classes so I could take them!"

Rachel BurgClinical Teacher of the Year

Burg is a clinical assistant professor at UW Law School and director of the Wisconsin Innocence Project at the Frank J. Remington Center. 

Before joining the Law School, Burg spent 10 years as a trial attorney in the Miami-Dade Public Defender's Office and the 2nd Judicial Circuit, Public Defender's Office (Tallahassee). She received her J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School, where she was an article editor for the University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform and worked with the Michigan Innocence Clinic. Before law school, Burg spent a year completing a Fulbright Fellowship in Erfurt, Germany.

"This is the first time since the award was created in 2008 that someone who has been in clinical teaching for only two years has received this honor," said Dean Tokaji. "I think this speaks volumes to Professor Burg's talent in her clinical teaching."

According to student evaluations that led to Burg receiving the Clinical Teacher of the Year award, "[She] has fundamentally shaped how I view the law, our criminal justice system, and the role of attorneys as advocates."

Honorable Phillip KossAdjunct Teacher of the Year

Judge Koss serves as a circuit court judge in Walworth County. He was elected in 2012 and re-elected in 2018.

After law school, Judge Koss worked in the district attorneys' office in Waupaca County until 1985, at which time he became District Attorney for Walworth County. He was later elected Walworth County District Attorney in 1990 and served there until he was elected judge.

Judge Koss was selected by Kids First Foundation of Milwaukee to travel to Latvia in 2003 to train prosecutors, judges and their Parliament on the topic of child abuse. He returned to Latvia in 2017, training judges and prosecutors on trial advocacy.

Judge Koss has taught Trial Advocacy at UW Law School 25 times since 1998.

According to student evaluations that led to Judge Koss receiving the Adjunct Teacher of the Year award, "His actual litigation experience in the class is like no other course in law school and really makes me feel like a lawyer."

Submitted by Law School News on March 26, 2024

This article appears in the categories: Faculty, Features

Related employee profiles: Megan McDermott, Rachel Burg, Phillip Koss