Irina is an absolute doll. She has an enormous amount of energy every day and utilizes every available minute of class time. Most of class is composed of activities from the textbook, and Irina calls on people at random to speak aloud so that everyone speaks at least once a day. She doesn't grill you or really expect too much from speakers in class, and corrects your mistakes as you say them. It may seem intimidating at first that she speaks largely in Russian throughout class, but it's really never an issue even if you just smile and nod and have no clue what she is saying. The composition of the class was very varied as far as skill and proficiency goes but she really tried to meet everyone's needs individually. She is a native speaker, and doesn't know all of the grammatical rules by heart, but if you ask a question she doesn't know she'll find out for you. She grades every scrap of homework you turn in a provides written feedback. Be prepared for a lot of Russian comedy sketches and songs during class!
Kirsten is a bit awkward and shy but don't let that dissuade you (you'll grow to love her quirks). She is a great teacher. Unlike some of the younger grad students who teach Russian, Kirsten actually wants to help you. The book they use for Russian 2 isn't very good, so she photocopies dozens of pages from other textbooks for us. If she can't answer a question or doesn't know the word for something she'll look it up and tell you the next day, even though you've forgotten about it. She's also flexible if you need to miss class (she teaches the night class so this happens a lot) and is always available outside of class. You'll learn more with her than in any other section!
Steven is wonderful. It was inspiring to be around someone so committed to helping other people learn. It was clear that he spent a lot of time preparing the lessons which he didn't have to do because technically you're supposed to learn all the grammar in grammar lecture. He takes teaching Russian very seriously, but still manages to have a great sense of humor and create an overall enjoyable class atmosphere. I learned so much from Steven. Though all the Russian teachers are wonderful people, Steven is truly special and I feel incredibly lucky to have been in his class.
Steven is great. He explained things so clearly that it was almost impossible not to understand them. He was totally approachable and personable and obviously cared about our understanding. Maybe it was just the kids in our class or maybe it was Steven (or a combination?) but this class was a pleasure to go to, despite the pretty considerable amount of work and the unpleasantness of meeting six times a week. Since someone else coordinates the Russian I curriculum, Steven didn't really control what work was assigned or what was on the tests. I was intimidated at the idea of learning Russian at first, but I'm really glad I took this class and that I took it with Steven.
Margo Rosen is the best professor I've had. Period. I wish she taught all my classes.
Tench ROCKS! All the Russian grad students great (I've had four of them as instructors), but I thought Tench was the best one of all. Really funny. Gets the material into your head. Not overly demanding (usually accepts late homework). Laid back. Not a know-it-all. Truly in it to help YOU, not to look smart. Well prepared (lots of pencil notes in his book - means he pre-read the chapters carefully. Not true of all the grad students). I find all languages boring, and taking Russian at Columbia is especialy demanding. Tench makes it all better. Oh, he's in a rock band. I think he plays bass guitar. I'm a Tench fan. Second "Oh", he plays cheezy Russian rock music in class for no real reason. Fun guy to take a class with, AND everyone learned a heck of a lot. No trade off between fun and learning. Tench ROCKS!
Don't take this class if you can't devote massive amounts of energy to it. At best, you will get a great foothold in the Russian language with the help of a wonderful, enthusiastic professor. But that's only if you can put in 2 hours a night to do the huge number of worksheets, nail the grammar, and memorize the massive amounts of vocab. Miss one night and it's all downhill from there; this prof. will really humiliate you in class. If you're planning on majoring in Russian, you probably couldn't choose a better teacher. Otherwise, do your sanity a favor and think twice before registering for Lebedev's section.