Teaching is a cooperative venture: the instructor provides the tools to acquire knowledge, while the student reciprocates with active engagement in the learning process.
Language study in particular, says Notre Dame faculty member Hannelore Weber, demands interaction and stimulation—a genuine give-and-take.
“I do my part, the students do their part, and together we succeed,” she says. “Their success is then my success.”
This cooperative spirit was recently recognized when Weber, an associate teaching professor in the Department of German and Russian Languages and Literatures, received the Goethe-Institut/American Association of Teachers of German Certificate of Merit.
Presented to just four people nationally each year, the award acknowledges educators who have significantly furthered the teaching of German in schools around the United States.
“I was so excited,” says Weber, who was honored not just for her work in Notre Dame’s College of Arts and Letters but also for her efforts to support German programs and teachers at high schools and colleges throughout the state. “It is my colleagues in Indiana who nominated me and spent the time and energy to get and write letters of recommendation and support. It’s from people who care about you—that makes it special.”
Weber has worked tirelessly over the years to promote the German language and culture. She served as president of the Indiana Chapter of the American Association of Teachers of German and continues to serve as a Trainer for the Goethe Institute. In this position, she attends annual educational conferences run by the institute and then organizes local seminars and events to share that information with teachers in Indiana. She also participates in a statewide mentoring program for new German teachers.
At Notre Dame, Weber says her department has been “extremely supportive” of her efforts in this regard and put her in charge of an assessment project to take its own language instruction to the next level.
“What we’re trying to do is look at our program and ask how we can improve what we offer.,” she says. “Currently, the focus is on the intermediate level. How are our students progressing? Are they reaching their goals? Are they ready for study abroad and upper level courses?”
A specialist in second language acquisition and pedagogy, Weber teaches intensive beginning and intermediate German classes each semester as well as a study abroad preparation class every fall. Her students come with different levels of previous study—and from a broad array of majors.
“The knowledge of German is important for the study of philosophy, history, political science, theology, music, and also business,” she says, noting that Germany is the fourth-largest economy in the world. “German is a rewarding area of study itself and can enhance any other major.”