Clark receives Northwestern Teaching Excellence Award

Rick Clark, instructor in Spanish at Northwestern College, has been named this year’s recipient of the Northwestern Teaching Excellence Award. He received a $1,500 check and a plaque at the college’s Honors Convocation today (May 1).

The award is sponsored by the Alumni Association and the Student Government Association (SGA). Students nominated 28 professors for the honor, with 65 nominations being received. A selection committee—composed of two SGA members, three members of the Sigma Tau senior honor society and the past two award winners—pared the nominees to three finalists.

Factors considered in the decision-making process included the number of nominations in relation to candidates’ class sizes, quality of nominations, professional development, research and publications, institutional service and student course evaluations.

The other finalists were Dr. Eric Elder, professor of business and economics, and Dr. Byron Noordewier, professor of biology.

Clark, in his 10th year on the faculty, is described by students as a passionate teacher who uses a variety of methods to help them learn. He is known for incorporating music, games, prayer, Scripture and his personal experiences in Spanish-speaking cultures into the classroom.

“He motivates you to want to learn and be productive in class,” says Ellen Schroeder, a junior social work major from Cuba City, Wis. “He makes learning enjoyable and fun.”

Raised in Ecuador as the son of missionary parents, Clark taught a Northwestern study abroad course in that country last summer. He has also led mission trips to Ecuador and Mexico, served as a lay pastor for a Hispanic congregation, and provided translation services in the community.

“Professor Clark is the prime example for integrating faith in learning,” says Michelle Power, one of the students who nominated him for the award. “He dedicates the first part of Monday classes to finding Christ in the subject matter. The type of learning that takes place in his classroom is learning that overflows into all aspects of life. He teaches with enthusiasm, and you can see the joy he gains from seeing his students succeed,” says the junior social work major from Grandville, Mich.

Clark, who also is an assistant men’s basketball coach at Northwestern and previously served for six years as the college’s sports information director, is described as being very approachable. “He cares about every one of his students and encourages them in and outside of class,” says Heather Anderson, a junior elementary education major from Alta, Iowa. “He will drop what he is doing if you need help, just want to chat or need to have someone listen to your struggles.”

Before joining the Northwestern faculty, Clark taught high school Spanish and English for 22 years, the last 17 of them at MOC-Floyd Valley High School in Orange City. A graduate of Wheaton College in Illinois, he earned a master’s degree in Spanish from the University of Northern Iowa.