Dr. Nancy Zimmerman, associate professor of modern languages, won the Pennsylvania State Modern Language Association (PSMLA) Frank Muhlern Leadership Award for her outstanding leadership in the world language profession.
“I am so humbled to not only be nominated for the most important award that our state organization, PSMLA, has to offer, the Frank Mulhern Leadership Award, but to actually be awarded this prestigious honor,” said Zimmerman. “I thank my colleague, Dawn Slack, for feeling I am worthy of this huge award and for reaching out to my former students and PSMLA co-members who supported her nomination.”
Zimmerman received her undergraduate degree in Spanish at Millersville University and received her master’s degree in Spanish language and literatures at the University of Delaware. Her passion for diversity in language and culture began when she was 12 years old in Puerto Rico. Her parents purchased a retirement home in the Caribbean where, for decades, she was able to explore and experience island life in Puerto Rico, becoming a local herself.
At KU, Zimmerman immerses herself in the diversity of language and culture as she teaches and advises students from all walks of life. She began in 1998 as a temp, earned her doctorate degree in 2011, and was awarded tenure in 2016. She has taught all levels of Spanish, including Oral and Written Communication for Spanish-speaking heritage learners, film, translation, Walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, syntax, children’s literature in Spanish and advanced composition and conversation.
One of her major accomplishments was researching Spanish as a Heritage Language for her doctoral dissertation and being asked by KU department chair, Dr. Karen Rauch, to put a course together and teach it. One of the biggest honors of her career was presenting with two of the most renowned researchers in the field, Guadalupe Valdes and Maria Carrera, during her session at an international heritage language conference – both gave her very positive feedback.
Zimmerman has been able to get many of her future language teachers to attend PSMLA conferences and workshops. Through grants from KU’s College of Education, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the KU Foundation and KU Undergraduate Research Committee, not only were they able to attend conferences from 2008 to present, but many worked on research that was then presented at these professional conferences. It gave KU language students the opportunity to work with the best teachers in the state.
In 2014, Zimmerman was awarded the North East Council for Teachers of Foreign Language (NECTFL) the Sans Inc., Mead Leadership Fellows Program, 2014, for a bilingual children’s book that she had written. In 2018, she was awarded a sabbatical leave during which she and her husband walked the last leg (110k) of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. Walking through Galicia, Spain, and attending the pilgrim’s mass at the famous cathedral in Santiago was awe-inspiring for the two of them.
The Frank Mulhern Leadership Award recognizes the exemplary work of an individual who has provided outstanding leadership in the world language profession in the state, region and/or nation and also contributed significantly to the work of PSMLA. The recipient must have been a member of PSMLA for a minimum of 10 years and must still be active in the work for which the award is being given. Furthermore, the recipient has contributed significantly on regional and/or national levels by one or more of the following or similar activities: serving on boards of regional and national foreign language associations; presenting frequently at regional or national conferences; and/or leading curriculum development efforts with a regional and/or national impact.