Dr. Sara (Trask) Frank, an associate professor of communication at McKendree University, recently received the 2023 United Methodist Exemplary Teacher of the Year Award. This award was given by the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church. Selection criteria include excellence in teaching, civility and concern for students and colleagues, commitment to value-centered education, and service to students, the institution and the community.
Dr. Frank earned her undergraduate degree from McKendree in 2005. She began teaching at her alma mater in 2018 and has been making her mark on the University ever since. A straightforward, lively, master communicator, Dr. Frank recently won the 2022 Emerson Excellence in Teaching Award for her outstanding contribution to the teaching profession and to her students. She is also the Provost Fellow for Communication, a role in which she maintains the faculty excellence page and co-advises McK Media.
“Dr. Frank sets aside time to meet with each student as they prepare speeches or work on other projects,” said Dr. Alan Alewine, associate provost at McKendree University. “Several of her recommenders could not say enough about her boundless enthusiasm, including one who wrote, ‘Many students have anxiety about public speaking, but she remains so patient and understanding that I often wonder if the students realize how lucky they are to have her as their instructor.’”
Dr. Frank’s excellence extends beyond the classroom. She has been a guest speaker in other professors’ classes and is an outstanding ambassador for McKendree, meeting with prospective students, sitting on preview panels, and showing what McKendree did for her and what it can do for others.
“As a McKendree alumna, Dr. Frank has a heart made of purple pride. She wants her students to have the same pride that she has, but she also wants them to be proud of themselves – their abilities, their goals and their accomplishments,” Dr. Alewine said.
A native of Jerseyville, Ill., Dr. Frank currently resides in Carlyle, Ill., and is currently running for the Carlyle School District Unit 1 School Board. She will soon be presenting a “G.I.F.T.” – Great Ideas for Teaching – at the upcoming Central States Communication Association conference in St. Louis this spring on a favorite topic: “Who Am I? Understanding Self Through Cajitas.” She will also be participating as a panelist on the “Next Leaders Network Reception and Informal Mentoring Opportunities” at the conference. She is a member of the National Communication Association and Phi Kappa Phi, and she is also the advisor of Lambda Pi Eta, the national communication honor society.
“How lucky am I that I get to walk into a classroom filled with our future leaders, teachers, business women and men, artists, scientists, and writers and teach?” said Dr. Frank. “I am honored to receive the UMC Exemplary Teacher of the Year Award; however, I would never win this award if it were not for my students. They are the ones who help create an enthusiastic, inclusive learning environment. While I constantly work to make learning fun, help my students find their voices, and encourage them to pursue their dreams, without student engagement, my classes would not be what they are. So, thank you to my students who show up daily ready to think, engage, and learn. You all are the reason I love what I do.”