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Yan Zhang Receives John P. Ellbogen Meritorious Classroom Teaching Award

May 3, 2017
woman standing in brick archway
Yan Zhang, UW Department of Modern and Classical Languages senior lecturer, pictured here at the Great Wall in China, is among three recipients of the John P. Ellbogen Meritorious Classroom Teaching Award. (UW Photo)

Yan Zhang, University of Wyoming Department of Modern and Classical Languages senior lecturer, knows how to engage students in the Chinese language and culture.

For more than 15 years, her service at the university has included creating the Chinese minor program at UW and an agreement with Harbin Institute of Engineering in China, allowing UW students to complete their master’s degrees in China after graduating from UW.

Recently, Zhang has begun work to create a Chinese major, and has created new classes to fully engage student senses.

Zhang is among three recipients of the John P. Ellbogen Meritorious Classroom Teaching Award, established in 1977 by businessman John P. "Jack" Ellbogen, to "foster, encourage and reward excellence in classroom teaching at UW." Other Ellbogen winners are Paul Dellenback, Department of Mechanical Engineering associate professor, and Eric Moorhouse, Department of Mathematics professor.

“This past year, her innovative course ‘See Movies, Touch China’ was packed with students who studied culture through cinema,” says Joy Landeira, Department of Modern and Classical Languages chair. “She also has recently received approval for a new first-year seminar class, ‘Taste China,’ that is now being offered at UW.”

A campus colleague has high praise for Zhang’s overall body of work.

“Zhang is the Chinese Program/Department at UW,” says Steven Locke, Department of Elementary and Early Childhood Education associate professor. “She has single-handedly developed the program here.”

The teaching conducted by Zhang helps enhance students’ understanding of the Chinese culture in a way that keeps them interested. 

“From the first class I attended, it was evident that Zhang has a grasp not merely on the Chinese language, how to teach it and how to understand undergraduate students, but how to combine all of these essential elements into a heady mix that results in her students leaving her classroom smiling after every lesson,” says Lin Poyer, Department of Anthropology professor.

According to a previous student of Zhang, “She works hard outside of the classroom to benefit both potential students to UW and those who have already graduated. Professor Yan is the only officially certified proctor of the Chinese Oral Proficiency Interview test in the southeast Wyoming area. Many employers are interested in students’ scores on this test.”

Student success in the classroom is important, but Zhang also focuses on student success outside of the classroom.

“Yan is dedicated to her students’ success even after they leave her classes and UW,” says a former student. “She assisted me in acquiring a Chinese Government Scholarship to study for a year at Shanghai Normal University, by not only helping me with the application, visa and travel processes, but her classes prepared me in ways that most other students here aren’t.”

Zhang received her bachelor of law, education on ideology and politics, from Harbin Institute of Technology in China, and her master of law, political science, from Heilongjiang Academy of Social Sciences in China.

Throughout her career, she has written multiple textbooks; has contributed articles and chapter writings; presented her research across the U.S. and China; and received several honors and awards.

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