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German Professor Named "Exemplary Teacher"

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Laura Franz has taught German at NWU for 10 years. Faculty and students nominated her for the 2016-2017 Exemplary Teacher Award, recognizing her commitment to a value-centered eduction and her personal attention to students.

Laura Franz may be a part-time German instructor, but she gives her students full-time attention.

When she’s not teaching them beginning or intermediate-level German or teaching an Archway Seminar for first-year students titled, “Coffee, Cake and the Kiss: Vienna at the Dawn of the 20th Century,” she can be found in the stands at Abel Stadium or in the seats in McDonald Theatre and O’Donnell Auditorium.

Many of her current and former students are active in the performing arts and sports. 

“She has students in football, women’s soccer, men’s soccer, volleyball, cross country, men’s tennis, women’s tennis and a cheerleader,” said Cathy Nelson, chair of the Modern Languages Department. “Yes, she attends at least one of every one of those events in its entirety and does so for her students every semester.” 

Her commitment and service to students are just a few reasons why the United Methodist Church Division of Higher Education has named her this year’s Exemplary Teacher. The award is given to an NWU professor each year who exemplifies excellence in teaching, civility and concern for students and colleagues, commitment to value-centered education, and service to students, the institution, community or church.

Franz has taught part-time at NWU for nearly 10 years. Colleagues praised her personalized attention to students noting her hours of individual meetings in her office, at the library, or at a local coffee shop.

“Laura requires individual meetings with all of her students to make sure that they are understanding the material and are doing well in class and in life,” noted Nelson.  “She even dedicates her evenings in order to meet with the students when their schedules allow, thus spending hours at MoJava.”

That commitment to students in and outside of the classroom has resonated well with students.

“Thank you for not only helping me learn German, but also helping me figure out how I can achieve my goals later on in life,” said one student nominator.

“By far one of the best, most caring professors at NWU,” said another student. “She genuinely cares for the students and does anything to help them succeed.”

In addition to teaching and supporting her students’ extracurricular activities, Franz co-chairs the Nebraska District of the Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions. In 2014, she established a fund at the Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center in downtown Lincoln so that NWU students can receive discounted tickets to opera and theatre broadcasts.

“All of this, both in and outside the classroom,” noted Melissa Erdmann, math professor and regular participant at the German conversation tables, “Laura does with a kindness that must be stemming from a heart of gold.”