McKendree University Associate Professor of Communication Recognized for Excellence in Teaching

Dr. Sara Frank and President Dan Dobbins(LEBANON, Ill., November 17, 2022) – Dr. Sara (Trask) Frank ’05 of McKendree University joins an elite group of St. Louis-area educators who have received the 2022 Emerson Excellence in Teaching Award for their outstanding contribution to the teaching profession and to their students. She and other recipients, who were chosen by their institutions’ top administrators, will receive an engraved crystal apple, along with additional Emerson recognition. The award also includes an opportunity to apply for an Emerson grant to support supplemental classroom services or materials at an award recipient’s school.

A native of Jerseyville, Ill., and current resident of Carlyle, Ill., Dr. Frank is a 2005 alumna and has served McKendree since 2018. She regularly teaches Human Communication courses, along with Fundamentals of Communication, Interpersonal Communication, Family Communication, Intercultural Communication and many more courses. A master communicator who has been described as straightforward, lively and effusive, Dr. Frank is also the Provost Fellow for Communication, a role in which she advises the McKendree Review, the student-run newspaper on campus, and helps students make podcasts on a wide range of topics. Last fall, she volunteered to put together and present materials for advisor training sessions, which went off without a hitch.

“Dr. Frank is known as a first-rate instructor. She is energetic and friendly, but no student is ever fooled – she maintains high, but not unreachable, standards,” said Dr. Alan Alewine, associate provost at McKendree University. “She works students hard but includes much laughter and light-heartedness in her courses. A general education student could not say enough about her boundless enthusiasm as he wrote, ‘Dr. Frank was meant to be a college professor’ and described her classroom as a ‘healthy learning environment’ and that she ‘can make a student feel comfortable in a room full of strangers.’”

During the fall of 2020, when educators everywhere were treading water in the ocean that was COVID-19, Dr. Frank embraced the problem of relationship-building during a pandemic by requiring one of her classes to publish “Dear Bogey” pieces in the McKendree Review. The students provided creative advice to their peers, faculty and staff on how to create and maintain healthy relationships. They were required to use course material, ancillary research and personal experience to craft their articles. Her recommenders called the project “inspiring.”

As a McKendree alumna, Dr. Frank is filled with school 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. Frank has a clear end game – to make students better versions of themselves,” Dr. Alewine said.

Dr. Frank 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. When she isn’t teaching, she enjoys spending time with her husband, Kevin, and their two sons, Dean and Wesley, and listening to podcasts and audiobooks.

“I am incredibly honored to receive this recognition,” said Dr. Frank. “Our McKendree faculty provides an exceptional educational experience for our students. To know I join a list of phenomenal colleagues and mentors who are dedicated to creating an engaging classroom culture is such a privilege. Every day I am reminded how lucky I am to get to call this a job, and to be recognized for my love of teaching and my students is incredible!”

Other McKendree graduates who received the 2022 Emerson Excellence in Teaching Award include the following:

  • Jason Watts, MAT ’09, a teacher at Charles Dorris Intermediate School in Collinsville, Ill.

  • Jenny Raetz ’05, a teacher at Notre Dame Academy in Belleville, Ill.

  • Tamara Tally ’07, a teacher in Annette Officer Elementary School in East St. Louis, Ill.

  • Deanne Laub, M.A.Ed. ’07, a teacher at Prather Pre-K/K Education Center in Granite City, Ill.

  • Casey Bassler ’05, a teacher at High Mount School in Swansea, Ill.

  • Erin Connolly ’12, M.A.Ed. ’17, a reading intervention coordinator at Whiteside Elementary School in Belleville, Ill.

  • Elizabeth (Murphy) White '94 is a teacher at Signal Hill Elementary School in Belleville, Ill.