Photo of Case Western Reserve University SAGES instructor Gail Arnoff

5 questions with… SAGES teaching fellow, “Mentor of the Year” awardee Gail Arnoff

Over the past 55 years, Gail Arnoff has been known to make a lasting impact on her students and mentees. And recently, her influence gained official recognition: The SAGES teaching fellow in Case Western Reserve University’s College of Arts and Sciences was recognized as “Mentor of the Year” from College Now, a college-access and student success organization.

Arnoff has long been dedicated to expanding educational opportunities. After graduating from Flora Stone Mather College for Women in 1966 and earning her master’s degree in 1967, she got her first teaching job at a local high school. Over the years, Arnoff has taught in a variety of settings—from public high schools to hospitals to universities.

In between jobs, for example, Arnoff found herself tutoring young children who, for medical reasons, couldn’t learn in a classroom. She’s developed programs such as the adolescent center at University Hospitals’ Howard M. Hanna Pavilion and a literary and arts journal for the students of Collinwood High School, called Collinwood Creations

After 30 years working for Cleveland City Schools, she retired in 2005. Just a year later, Arnoff brought her vast experience to two local universities: John Carroll and Case Western Reserve.

For the last 16 years at CWRU, students have taken her SAGES course, “Questions of Identity,” where they dive deep into work that brings up questions about what defines us as human beings. She focuses on three main areas: disabilities, the Holocaust and sexuality. 

Aside from her classroom work, Arnoff is a published writer and, now, an award-winning mentor. She’s worked with students at College Now for 12 years, with her nominator, college student and aspiring optometrist Sandy Huynh, calling her “the absolute best mentor I could have asked for.”

Arnoff “helps me to see the best in myself,” Huynh said, “and I love her for it.” 

Arnoff also has been a mentor through many different organizations over the years, including for international students at John Carroll University and Case Western Reserve, new runners for Team in Training at the Leukemia/Lymphoma Society, and she is even still in touch with her little sister from the Big Brothers/Big Sisters Program. 

“The rewards of mentoring are not tangible,” Arnoff said. “What I and many others obtain from mentoring is a connection to people we wouldn’t meet in any other way. For me, mentoring is an important part of my life.”

1. Where’s your favorite travel destination?

I have to say Israel because my son and four of our grandkids live there.

2. What’s up next on your reading list?

Well, I do belong to two book clubs and I read a lot. I actually just finished a book that I absolutely loved—Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell. It’s beautifully written and it’s heartbreaking. I didn’t want to finish it because it was too hard, but I had to, and it was very moving.

3. What’s one local spot you recommend every out-of-towner check out?

Tommy’s. I don’t know how many places there are like Tommy’s in the country.

4. If you could have one superpower, what would you choose?

That my body could run another marathon.

5. What’s your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve?

I have to say, the students. I really love my students.