Tommy Bell (PhD, 2015): Teaching German in Fargo, North Dakota

Submitted by Michael Neininger on
Tommy Bell, North of Normal

Tommy Bell writes:

"In the city known as “North of Normal,” Fargo, ND, I have had the tremendous opportunity to work this last semester as a German Lecturer at North Dakota State University. Encouraging colleagues have made the experience very rewarding. The students have made my time here memorable; they have a strong work ethic, and they are highly motivated to learn German. Because many of them want to spend time in Germany, they realize the importance of gaining fluency in the language. It has certainly been a pleasure to be able to facilitate them in their endeavor to effectively communicate in German. The three courses I am teaching are German 101, 201, and 311. In each of the courses, I have numerous students who have demonstrated substantial progress; it has been exciting to see the rewards of their effort and diligence.

            While instructing here at NDSU, I have made three distinct observations. First, the desire to learn German in this area – quaintly situated, as it is, on the Prairie – is astonishingly high. Students studying engineering are keenly aware of how beneficial it would be to have German on their resumes. Those in music want to understand the songs they are singing. Graduate students in European history are taking German, in order to access and comprehend manuscripts vital to their research. A significant number of students simply want to learn German to be able to communicate with family members that have German heritage. The demand is certainly high, and it’s exciting to be able to assist the students achieve the language fluency they are striving to obtain. My second observation is that curriculum development is genuinely enjoyable. I have received a substantial amount of freedom to personally develop learning material for the individual courses I am instructing. This autonomy has required me to exercise quite a bit of creativity, and, for me, this has been motivational and energizing. It has been fulfilling to discover innovative ways to present language material; my creative inclinations have certainly been employed throughout the course of this last semester, and I am already looking forward to teaching the material I have planned for next semester. Having the opportunity to work independently and creatively is a luxury I am very fortunate to have. Third, I have continually realized the value of my education in Germanics at the University of Washington. The training I received as a graduate student has proved to be invaluable. What I obtained at the UW I have been able to implement into my instruction here at NDSU. The classes I took, the classes I taught, and the instructors who taught me all prepared me unbelievably well for the teaching tasks I am currently carrying out. The professors in Germanics at the UW continue to be both an encouragement to me and a source I can turn to when striving to come up with curriculum ideas. As a new lecturer at NDSU, I appreciate the academic environment I have found here, and I am thankful for the Germanics Department at the UW, which intellectually prepared me for this exciting position in higher education."