French Professor Named 50th Recipient of Top Teaching Honor

Michèle Bissière, professor of French, is the golden jubilee recipient of the Bank of America Award for Teaching Excellence. Presented annually since 1968, the award is one of UNC Charlotte’s most prestigious accolades, recognizing a talented faculty member. She received the honor during a special ceremony Friday, Sept. 8, 2017.

Since joining UNC Charlotte in 1990, Bissière, a professor in the Department of Languages and Culture Studies in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, has developed 12 courses, with most of those in the French curriculum, including language, advanced literature, culture, civilization and film.

However, it is what is not listed on paper that makes Bissière a truly exceptional teacher, colleagues say. Because of her enthusiasm, integrity and work ethic, Bissière has supported every major programmatic initiative in languages and culture studies during the last two decades. Her outreach has been so diverse and extensive that she is considered the face of French at UNC Charlotte.

As a leader in the Department of Languages and Culture Studies, Bissière founded the French Club and established the internship program, which regularly places students in area schools to assist instructors teaching French; she encourages students to volunteer within local schools and for the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art. She is the founder and organizer of the annual International Film Festival, and has received numerous grants from the French-American Cultural Exchange Foundation to bring French film festivals to campus.

Bissière received the 2001 Pedagogical Award from the North Carolina chapter of the American Association of Teachers of French (NC-AATF), the 2013 NC-AATF Teacher of the Year Award, the 2015 AATF Dorothy Ludwig Excellence in Teaching Award and the 2017 UNC Charlotte Faculty International Education Award.  In 2014, she was named Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques (Knight in the Order of the French Academic Palms) by the French Ministry of Education, the most prestigious distinction bestowed upon instructors by the French government.

Bissière researches contemporary French cinema, with a focus on films dealing with immigration. Her most recent book, with Alan Singerman, Le Cinéma français contemporain. Manuel de classe (Hackett Publishing Company), is forthcoming in November 2017.

Bissière teaches courses in language, literature, and culture. She uses film in her courses to reinforce language skills and elements of culture. She is the author of the textbook, Séquences: Intermediate French through Film, now in its third edition with Cengage, and of a co-edited volume of Women in French Studies entitled French and Francophone Literature and Culture through Film. Bissière has served as Interim and Associate Chair of the Department of Languages and Culture Studies, Study-Abroad Coordinator, and French Club Advisor. She has been actively involved with the Alliance Française de Charlotte and with the American Association of Teachers of French (AATF) for over twenty years.

This year marks the 50th presentation of the Bank of America Award for Teaching Excellence. It was established in response to a suggestion by the staff of the student literary magazine. Bonnie E. Cone and W. Hugh McEniry, vice chancellors at the time, endorsed the students’ proposal for the annual award and presented it to Chancellor Dean Colvard. He found financial support for the award through the generosity of Addison Reese and NCNB, a predecessor to NationsBank and Bank of America.

Scott Fitzgerald, associate professor of sociology; Amy Good, associate professor of reading and elementary education; Kirk Melnikoff, associate professor of English; and Coral Wayland, associate professor of anthropology, also were finalists for this year’s Bank of America Award for Teaching Excellence and were acknowledged at the Sept. 8 ceremony.

A version of this story first appeared in | Image: Wade Bruton

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