Betty La France is sarcastic; it’s a personality trait she attributes to growing up in Detroit.
She was once intrigued by investigative journalism, and although she believes her personality would have fit the profession, it was after taking her first research-methods class that she realized teaching was the path she wanted to follow.
While La France dials down her quips in the classroom just a bit, her wit helps make learning communication fun.
“I think this award speaks to the fact that I’m a different type of professor, and that students appreciate it,” La France said. “I’m known to be quite sarcastic in class, and I think that students are able to relate to that.”
La France began her teaching career in 1998 at Wake Forest University. Then, after a brief stint at the University of Missouri, she came to NIU in 2004. Here, she teaches Interpersonal Communication Theory and Intro to Communication.
“One thing I like to do is talk about my research,” La France said. “It allows me to talk about interesting relational dynamics. So, we talk a lot about intimate relationships and those dynamics. Students seem to really enjoy those topics.”
Bill Cassidy, an associate professor in the Department of Communications at NIU, said he admires La France’s teaching style.
“I’ve had the benefit of seeing Dr. La France in the classroom on numerous occasions,” Cassidy said. “And quite frankly, I was amazed – and a little jealous, I must admit – at her talent for making difficult and complex concepts understandable to students, while at the same time incorporating experiences from her life into the discussion.”
Sara Stephens, a senior at NIU, said La France has had a profound impact on her students.
“She would relate each topic back to how we could better other aspects of our lives, personally and professionally,” Stephens said. “We weren’t treated as college students, but as curious individuals who were expected to contribute to the classroom and to society.”
La France said it’s difficult to put into words how much she appreciates receiving the Undergraduate Teaching Award because, to her, she was simply doing her job.
“I think it means a lot,” La France said. “I’ve been teaching for some time, and you really don’t get much feedback from students other than teaching evaluations. It’s a great honor, even more-so because it’s from my students, which I respect.”
La France is a Sycamore resident and a proud Detroit sports fanatic.