Theresa Schenker: 2014 Teacher of Excellence Award Winner

Theresa Schenker has served as Language Program Director for German at Yale University since 2012.

Dr. Theresa Schenker is Language Program Director of German at Yale University Enlarge image Dr. Theresa Schenker is Language Program Director of German at Yale University (© Theresa Schenker) Having completed her PhD in German Studies at Michigan State University in June 2012, Dr. Schenker came to Yale as a Lector charged with overhauling the German program.

Just two years later, in spring 2014, she was promoted to Senior Lector with the “unanimous and enthusiastic support of the German faculty and with highest marks from her colleagues at Yale’s Language Center as well as the cognizant Vice Provost,” according to Rüdiger Campe, Professor and Chair of German at Yale.

In her dissertation, entitled “The Effects of an E-Mail Exchange on Language Skills and Intercultural Competence,” Schenker developed the theoretical background for her cutting-edge pedagogy. “I specifically investigated how intercultural competence can be evaluated and traced in a virtual exchange connecting native speakers of German in Germany and learners of German in the US,” she says. “I also investigated how written language skills (syntactic complexity in writing) are developed through online peer-to-peer communication and how intercultural communication affects students’ interest in cultural learning.”

The Internet-based exchange teaching method developed by Schenker has provided the foundation for her success at Yale, says Dr. Campe. “The model, its practical realization, and the theoretically guided evaluation provide her with a firm basis for combining communicative approach based language teaching with an emphasis on engaging students in intercultural exchange.”

But the high praise the Jena, Germany native has earned from colleagues, administrators and students alike derives not just from her singular teaching methodology, but her impassioned commitment to student learning.  

“I always wanted to be a teacher,” Schenker says. “I was able to study abroad at MSU during my MA education in Germany and got to TA a German class there. I absolutely loved it! I knew that this was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”

Schenker continues to derive pleasure from her own students’ success. She feels most accomplished “when students who take German only to fulfill a language requirement continue beyond the required courses because they found a true passion for the language.”

“I love helping students find their love for German language and culture.”