Faculty and Staff Spotlight-Prof. Alexandra Pölzlbauer
For December and January's Faculty/Staff Spotlight, we had a one on one interview with Dr. Alexandra Pölzlbauer - Adjunct Professor and German Language Professor at Webster Vienna.
1. Can you tell us more about your academic background?
I finished my first master studies at the University of Vienna in German and English Studies, specializing in teaching German as a foreign/second language. During my studies, I benefited from various teaching opportunities, for example a one-semester internship in the German Department at the Lomonosov Moscow State University. After my return from Moscow, I worked as Teaching/Administrative Assistant in the Austria-Illinois Exchange Program. Realizing the high value of such international study and teaching experiences, I decided to pursue a Ph.D. in Germanic Languages and Literatures at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Here, too, I had the opportunity to study and teach abroad, finishing my dissertation on Globalization and Newer Austrian Literature in Greifswald, Germany and Vienna, Austria.
2. What ambitions did you have when you graduated from your university?
As a teaching assistant in German language, literature, and culture, it became very important to me to pursue a career that allowed me to continue my work with international students.
3. As a German language professor, what do you think is the hardest part of learning German?
My students frequently mention the challenge to learn every new German noun with its correct article (masculine, feminine or neuter). It definitely requires a certain amount of time and discipline, but I have seen many successful “article queens and kings”-- names for winners of our classroom article-search-game -- over the last semesters.
4. What recommendations would you give students at Webster who wish to learn German?
Focus on the details and study hard from the very beginning. I am always impressed by what is actually possible in a few weeks of Beginner German 1090 and 1100. Also, expose yourself to as much German as possible. (Short) movies, poems, short stories, and music are powerful sources to learn and enjoy the German language. Exciting new Austrian musicians like “Wanda”, “Bilderbuch” or “Nino aus Wien” make it easy to find something for everyone`s taste.
5. What do you expect from your students?
A proactive attitude towards work, the willingness to overcome challenges, and the openness to new ideas and perspectives.
6. What do you like the most about teaching German?
Language classrooms always foster a special and creative atmosphere. Participants get to know one another pretty well when discussing various aspects of languages, learning methods, and, most of all, cultural aspects. Also, the variety of methods and sources in language classrooms are unlimited.
7. What is your favorite memory while teaching at Webster Vienna?
That is a difficult choice, but it is definitely those (often humorous) moments, when you see students grow, when they come to class and tell you about sentences they heard on the street they now can understand, when students who have fallen behind suddenly catch up and develop a great interest in languages, when students start comparing linguistic and cultural aspects, when students make little witticisms in German and when we start to share inside-jokes amongst each other. It is also very rewarding when students have presentations about their first short interviews with random people on the street and when they realize they are able to communicate in German to a certain extent. Ideally, their interest and capability to reach out to the German-speaking population of Vienna grows.
8. Do you have any hidden talents?
Well, I think I would call it a hobby rather than a talent – “But I can say I am able to speak in rhyme all day...”