Josh Brown: 2014 Teacher of Excellence Award Winner

Josh Brown has served as Assistant Professor of German at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 2011.

Assistant professor Josh Brown teaches a German 202 class at UW-Eau Claire. Enlarge image Assistant professor Josh Brown teaches a German 202 class at UW-Eau Claire. (© UWEC) Since coming to UWEC, Dr. Brown has impressed students, colleagues and administrators with his dynamic and impassioned teaching.

His student evaluations have been superlative. Peer reviewers visiting Brown's classes judge his teaching performance as "excellent," "thoroughly planned" and "well executed.”

Since 2011, the enrollment of German majors and minors (currently at 98) has increased by 30 percent. Brown “has been an integral part of this rebirth in the language,” says Carter Smith, Chair of the Department of Languages.

Brown’s ability to inspire engagement with German language and culture has not been limited to his language classes, however. Through his Amish in America course, he brings his extensive scholarship on Pennsylvania Dutch to new audiences, cultivating more than just academic interest.

Over 90 percent of the students in Brown’s highly popular course on Amish history and culture come from the College of Nursing, “since they recognize the importance of better cultural understanding in dealing with the Amish when they visit area hospitals and clinics,” Dr. Smith points out.

Pennsylvanian Dutch language and culture are what first attracted Brown to studying, and later teaching German.

“I was captivated by language at a very early age,” he says. “My grandmother and her sister would sit at our kitchen table and speak Pennsylvania Dutch, which to me was their secret language. I wanted to learn it and be part of their conversations.”

In his courses on German Anabaptist communities in the U.S., and his German language courses at UWEC, Brown consistently points to the relevance of cultural and linguistic learning in the modern working world.

“I draw concrete connections not only between the student’s passions, but also with their job prospects,” he says. “I show them that employers want workers with excellent communication skills.”

Brown’s own communication skills have enabled him to boost the stature of German language education at UWEC and in the broader community.

A traveling exhibit of the White Rose Resistance Movement from the German Historical Institute in Washington, DC, which Brown brought to the university, attracted over 300 students and teachers from middle and high schools in the Eau Claire and Twin Cities areas to come to the campus. Students learned about an important chapter in German history while discussing social justice and student involvement. Wisconsin high school teachers took part in a four-hour workshop on the topic.

In his teaching, scholarship, and advising, Brown always aims to break down the boundaries between the classroom and the “real world”. Achieving this constitutes his greatest success.

“My greatest accomplishment as a teacher of German is hearing from students experience their first time abroad. I love getting a quick note from a student, or an email, in which they make the connection between learning in my classroom and learning in immersion,” he says.

“I like to see my classes make a difference in their lives and allow them to experience something more global. It makes my classroom seem boundless.”