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Music Professor Named Exemplary Teacher

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Music professor John Spilker shares a moment with students after class. His students and colleagues say Spilker's enthusiasm and expectations are unmatched.

Energetic. Inventive. Committed. That’s how colleagues and students describe music professor John Spilker.

“Students will come, and they will stay when they have taken inventive, demanding and engaging classes like those taught by John Spilker,” wrote Sandra McBride, assistant professor of English.

The United Methodist Church Division of Higher Education has named Spilker its 2014-2015 Exemplary Teacher. The award is given 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.

Spilker joined the Nebraska Wesleyan University faculty in 2011, teaching music history and music theory. In his four short years at NWU, he’s made a big impact, serving as the New Student Orientation faculty co-coordinator, revising his curriculum to enhance student-centered learning experiences, and contributing significantly to the new general education curriculum.

In her nomination letter, McBride celebrated Spilker’s desire to challenge his students and help them draw connections between their daily lessons that will better prepare them for upcoming research projects.

“He clearly communicates high standards and expectations to his students,” she said.

Senior Zachary Weir of Omaha is one of those students who has benefitted from Spilker’s guidance.

“He brings an enthusiasm to the classroom like I have never seen before,” said Weir, who has taken four classes from Spilker. “I have not only learned to understand and respect music history as a discipline, but I have learned how to become a better writer, speaker and classroom participant.”

This fall Weir joins Spilker in the classroom as his Archways Seminar co-instructor. Together they are teaching first-year students about social media. Weir said Spilker allowed him the opportunity to develop the new course.

“Through the design process, not only did I find a colleague, but I found a mentor,” said Weir. “Now that we are instructing this class together, he has demonstrated the same respect for me not just as a college student, but a respected and trusted colleague.

“Dr. Spilker goes above and beyond in his classes to not only teach the content,” Weir added, “but to also teach life skills that are applicable in any class and in life.”