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‘My students make me a better teacher’

April 19, 2011
Jeanne Jakubowski

Jeanne Jakubowski

Jeanne Jakubowski wanted to be a teacher, but she never thought she would be working at NIU.

And she wanted to do her best at work, but she never thought she would receive an award from her students and peers.

But this month the instructor in NIU’s Department of English can claim both as the winner of NIU’s Excellence in Undergraduate Instruction Award.

“When I opened the letter telling me I received it, I felt so honored,” Jakubowski said. “This award tells me I am being recognized for my contributions to the NIU community. I’m proud to be a member of this community.”

The Naperville resident loves her jobs teaching English in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences just as much as she loves teaching English in the university’s CHANCE program.

“My students make me a better teacher,” she said. “Reading what they write and seeing how they think inspires me.”

After teaching at NIU for 19 years, Jakubowski still is amazed at how her career has evolved. She grew up in Chicago and always thought she would attend college to study education.

“Even as a young girl I wanted to be a teacher,” she said. “My mother encouraged me to attend college. She and my father never went to college. The day after she graduated from high school, she went to work at the Brach’s candy company in Chicago to help support her family.”

With her mother’s support and encouragement Jakubowski earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English at Loyola University in Chicago. She spent several years teaching high school in Chicago.

“I never thought I would be teaching at NIU,” she said. “I assumed I would continue teaching at the high school level. I never thought I would be a college teacher.”

Nonetheless, her students and colleagues who nominated her say she is a great college teacher.

“She is willing to come up with creative ways of teaching her diverse student body, which proves to be interesting and educationally effective,” student Jeffrey Dorsey told the nominating committee.

“Her colleagues are envious of Jeanne’s uncanny ability to help developing writers with a language that can be, even in the best of circumstances, and even for practiced users, awfully slippery,” wrote Ellen Franklin, assistant to the director of NIU’s composition program, and Jakubowski’s supervisor.

“Even more importantly, she is able to help writers fend off more dangerous enemies than non-standard syntax – enemies such as discouragement and depression.”

Jakubowski and her husband, Tom, have two daughters, Marta and Lauren.