News - NIU - Foreign Languages and Literatures - Hartmann Honored


John Hartmann Honored as 2006-2010 Presidential Teaching Professor

John Hartmann

For 40 years, John Hartmann's passions have been the Orient and a highly personal approach to teaching.

“I believe teaching has a civilizing effect on students and on society as a whole,” Hartmann says. “Here at Northern we have unique opportunities to take young people and help shape their lives to become civic-minded and help contribute to the commonweal, the betterment of society.”

The professor in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures since 1974 keeps his class materials exclusively on the Web at There is no textbook, permitting a “natural conversation.” His students collectively construct Friday exams of oral and language. They gather in a semi-circle for question-and-answer sessions in Thai, a tonal language with a non-Roman alphabet.

Students maintain weekly e-mail journals of their accomplishments and concerns. In return, Hartmann sends constant feedback and reinforcement.

“It’s a unique challenge to get someone to speak in another tongue. It almost requires a personality change. You have to adapt to the world outlook, the gestures, the body language, the attitudes of another culture,” says Hartmann, who earned all of his degrees at the University of Michigan. “I’ve had grown men cry in my class because they just couldn’t get something to come out of their mouths. I always make them feel good about what they’re doing. I make them feel like they’re my family.”