Instructor receives state honor

Deb Menning, instructor in English, received a Literacy Award from the Iowa Council of Teachers of English (ICTE) at the organization’s annual meeting in Cedar Rapids on Oct. 8.

Menning was among nine Literacy Award recipients for 2004, and the only college teacher. The award is presented to individuals for their “demonstrated contributions to language development and the learning of literacy in the state.” Menning was nominated by Jim Davis, director of the Iowa Writing Project, and Barb Turnwall, assistant professor of English at Northwestern.

Turnwall, who received a Literacy Award in 1999, says Menning took several Iowa Writing Project offerings, including Northwestern’s Pedagogy Project, and developed the courage to experiment with teaching strategies that focus on students as learners.

“Her efforts have been amply rewarded as she creates dynamic classrooms that become a community of learners who are excited and engaged with their learning,” says Turnwall. “Deb continues to refine her practice, informed by substantive interaction with students and professional peers near and far. She helps demonstrate that, at all levels, teaching practices are means; learning is the end … and the beginning.”

Jordan Dornbierer, a senior mathematics major, says Menning knows how to encourage students to care about their work. “[She provided] the essentials to initiate her students’ own interest, making a space for self-motivation. The result was students really investing themselves in their work. Her passion for the class’s material pales only in comparison to her genuine interest and sincere investment in her students. Through prayer and in-class discussion she fostered a strong sense of community. Professor Menning was very demanding, but equally encouraging; work was focused, but took place within a sense of fellowship.”

Senior sociology major April Olivares describes Menning as an incredible teacher. “She is caring and passionate in life and in the classroom, in tune with her students’ needs. She leaves room for the students to interact with one another in dialogue and to interact with her,” says Olivares. “Everyone is both a learner and teacher in her classroom.”

Menning has taught writing and literature classes at Northwestern for more than 10 years. She and her students have repeatedly given presentations at the ICTE fall conference, especially on the multi-genre paper.