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An Interview with: Dr. Theodora Franck, Upper School Instructor and Northwestern University Coordinator

Who’s Who at Roycemore:
Dr. Theodora Franck

In room 232 of the Upper School, you may find nine Roycemore Upper School students silently writing, heads bowed over their desks, eyes focused on their laptops. Instructor Dori Franck is teaching Movies and Foodies, a short course Roycemore offers during the January Short Term (JST). She devotes some of the time to practice journal writing because the habit of intentionally pausing to write down their reflections can help students understand their own behaviors. She explains, “As a psychology teacher, besides teaching factual information, I am also teaching life skills so students can start to gain insight into their own behavior. Once they start to understand it, they can change what they don’t like.” With an Ed.D in Educational Leadership and Organizational Change, an M.S. in Counselor Education, and a B.A. in Psychology, Franck has been teaching Psychology for over 30 years. We sat down to talk with her about teaching social studies, why Roycemore pulled her out of retirement, and the #1 question she gets from parents.

What do you teach?

I teach AP Psychology, elective Psychology, US History, and AP Government. I am also the faculty coordinator between Roycemore and Northwestern University for the NU Option program.

You help Roycemore students who are interested in studying at Northwestern University. Can you tell us a bit about what you do?

In the spring, we (myself and a coordinator from Northwestern) do a joint presentation for any Roycemore students who are interested in attending classes at Northwestern. We present all the opportunities that are available to them and students have the chance to ask questions.

In the fall, we go over to the Northwestern campus together for a visit and another information session. I walk them to all the places where they will have to drop off their registration papers. I help them with the process, and they can come to me with any questions. There are some challenges. The students have to check with their teachers at Roycemore about the time they may miss in one of their classes. We encourage them to sign up for classes being held during their free time, however that doesn’t always work. Students also have to reach out to the department chairs at Northwestern to get permission to enroll.

After the university quarter starts, I check on the students’ progress. I want to make sure they are successful. The professors treat them like any other student, so the Roycemore students have to really step up.

What kind of classes are Roycemore students taking at Northwestern University?

In general, if a student has finished all the courses in a subject sequence at Roycemore, students may choose to challenge themselves and continue the sequence by taking a class at Northwestern. Primarily, they take math classes. However, students also study foreign languages such as Hebrew, Spanish, or Mandarin.

How do the Roycemore students feel taking a class at a large university with college students?

At first, they may be a little bit intimidated by the college setting. But Roycemore students are confident, intelligent, and hold their own. This experience is a maturity and confidence booster. It reduces later college stress because our students learn about the registration process and how to work with professors. They gain experience in meeting registration deadlines. Students have to make an appointment, take initiative, reach out, and in general, have more responsibility. They have to organize their time and learn how to study differently. It is all great practice for college.

You are the Roycemore psychology teacher, the Northwestern University Coordinator, and you also represent Roycemore at school fairs. What are parents asking about Roycemore at school fairs?

The NU Option is the #1 question I get from parents at school fairs. I share the details just discussed, as well as the fact that this program is covered by Roycemore tuition. Families don’t pay extra for this. Students can still participate in extracurricular activities while taking Northwestern classes. Right now, Roycemore usually fills the 30 quarter hours that Northwestern University has allowed for our students, and I hope that in the future, Northwestern gives us even more slots. Parents are very interested in this program. Parents are impressed by the prestige and the name recognition. Plus, it is compelling that students can put on their resume that they have taken a course at Northwestern University.

How did you become a teacher and coordinator at Roycemore?

Before Roycemore, I taught AP Psychology for nearly 25 years and I started that program at Glenbrook North High School. I retired from there and learned about Roycemore from a friend I used to work with who happened to teach here. He was teaching at Roycemore and familiarized me with the school. I mentioned it to some of my family members, and they responded by saying they heard it was a really great school. I heard only positive, good things about Roycemore. So, when my friend encouraged me to come out of retirement and apply, I did!

What interests you about teaching?

In grad school, my dissertation was on teaching empathy to high school students. You can know your facts but that won’t necessarily make you a good person or a productive citizen. As a teacher, I ask, “How can we help students figure that out?”

Because I am a psychology teacher first and foremost, I am not only focused on the acquisition of knowledge, I really want the students to grow emotionally. I want them to start looking at their role as a beneficial member of society. As caring, empathic citizens of the world, what will be their role in the future? How can they contribute to society? I am not here just to teach facts and figures. That’s only one part of education. I want to look at the whole person. That’s why I love teaching.