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German professor earns UW System's top teaching honor

| Judy Berthiaume

Dr. Martina Lindseth, professor of languages at UW-Eau Claire, will receive the 2018 UW System Board of Regents Teaching Excellence Award.

Lindseth, who teaches German, will receive the award during the June Board of Regents meeting in Milwaukee.

“It is a great honor to receive this award,” says Lindseth, who joined UW-Eau Claire's faculty in 1998. “I am proud to follow in the footsteps of my predecessors in the UW System, and especially of the last recipient from UWEC eight years ago, the exceptional Dr. Paul Thomas, professor of physics.”

The award, which recognizes outstanding achievements in teaching, is the UW System’s highest recognition for members of its faculty and academic staff. Each year just two UW System faculty or academic staff members receive the $5,000 awards.

Teaching Excellence Award recipients are selected for their strong commitment to teaching and learning; use of effective teaching strategies to enhance student learning; and significant impact on students’ intellectual development.

An extraordinary teacher who deeply values learning, Lindseth embodies the definition of teaching excellence, says UW-Eau Claire Provost Patricia A. Kleine, who supported Lindseth's nomination for the award.

“There are many excellent professors, but there are only a few truly exceptional teachers who positively impact so many students,” Kleine says. “Dr. Lindseth is one of those exceptional educators.

“During her career at UW-Eau Claire, Dr. Lindseth has set the standard for teaching excellence by demonstrating a deep commitment to student learning and the use of innovative pedagogical practices, generously sharing her expertise with her peers, and having a profound impact on students both inside and outside the classroom.”

Dr. Matt Waters, chair of the department of languages, agrees, describing Lindseth as an "extremely gifted and truly dedicated educator" who provides students with learning environments where they are challenged, engaged and empowered.

Students in Lindseth's classes feel comfortable making mistakes and welcome being challenged, Waters says, adding that Lindseth's ability to push students beyond their comfort zone leads to graduates who are adaptable, confident in their abilities, and able to achieve beyond their original aspirations.

“Dr. Lindseth makes each student feel accountable for his or her learning and has a strong impact on students' lives far beyond graduation,” Waters says.

An innovative teacher and an influential scholar, Lindseth regularly provides high-impact learning opportunities for students that are meaningful and transformative, Waters says.

Lindseth also inspires her colleagues, says Waters, who has worked with Lindseth throughout his 15-plus years teaching at UW-Eau Claire.

Several former students supported Lindseth’s nomination for the Teaching Excellence Award, citing her skills as a teacher as well as her willingness to support them in multiple ways outside the classroom.

The graduates all stated that Lindseth’s teaching added value to their college experience and helped to shape how they see their futures.

"Without her support, studying abroad in Germany, an experience that became such a pivotal part of my academic development and my life, would have remained as nothing more than a dream, says Gus Olthafer, a 2014 UW-Eau Claire graduate with majors in biochemistry/molecular biology and German. “Dr. Lindseth has had a lasting impact on my intellectual and personal development." 

Erin House, a 2007 UW-Eau Claire graduate, is another Blugold who says Lindseth made a lasting impact on her.

A freshman when she enrolled in one of Lindseth’s German language courses, House initially felt miles behind her peers in her language competence. However, within weeks she was confident and excited about the language because of Lindseth’s teaching and support.

It wasn’t long before House declared German as her major and decided to study abroad in Germany.

“At the time, I had no idea that this was the start of a relationship that has now lasted over a decade and supported me through some of the major successes and challenges in my life,” House says of having Lindseth as a professor.

It was Lindseth who encouraged her to apply to the prestigious Fulbright program, an application that earned her a hard-to-get Fulbright research grant, House says, adding that Lindseth also encouraged her to apply to a graduate program in German studies at UW-Madison.

“I directly credit Professor Lindseth for inspiring, guiding and helping me pursue these opportunities,” says House, who now is a teacher in Eau Claire. “As a low-income, first-generation college student, I do not believe I would have had access to them had I not been supported by an inspirational teacher who believed in me.”

Still another former student, Lara Steinike, a 2015 UW-Eau Claire graduate who currently is in Germany teaching and pursuing a post-graduate degree, says that Lindseth makes students feel valued and supported through her teaching and research.

“By combining high standards, frequent personalized feedback and sincere encouragement of improvement rather than punishment of mistakes, she establishes an environment in which students always feel supported,” Steinike says. “As a result of this support, students in the class come to trust both Dr. Lindseth and one another quickly, leading to a willingness to take the risks necessary for long-lasting learning to occur.”

The UW System’s prestigious Teaching Excellence Award is the most recent celebration of Lindseth’s teaching and scholarly work.

Previously, Lindseth was named a Wisconsin Teaching Scholar in 2005, received UW­-Eau Claire's Maxwell Schoenfeld Distinguished Professorship in 2014, and was named the Distinguished German Educator of 2017 by the Wisconsin chapter of the American Association of Teachers of German.

Lindseth’s hard work and vision also have elevated UW-Eau Claire’s language programs.

Lindseth’s significant efforts in curriculum design and excellence in language instruction played a key role in UW-Eau Claire's German program being designated a German Center of Excellence by the American Association of Teachers of German in 2015. UW-Eau Claire is the sole UW System institution and the only Wisconsin post-secondary institution to receive this honor.

Being nominated for the Teaching Excellence Award created an opportunity to reflect on her teaching and learning philosophy, something she finds valuable after two decades of teaching, Lindseth says.

“Receiving the news that the Regents had chosen me for the award was of course extremely gratifying,” Lindseth says. “However, the very nomination process was equally rewarding and inspiring.

“Looking back at how my teaching career evolved and realizing the positive, lasting impact that my efforts have had on others has been a fulfilling way to complete my 20th year of teaching at UWEC. I am thankful for all the support I have received from colleagues, administrators and students.”

Photo caption: Dr. Martina Lindseth, professor of languages, is the recipient of the 2018 UW System Board of Regents Teaching Excellence Award.