Jeannie Ducher Scholar Award honors the life and legacy of an inspiring educator, colleague, and friend

Jeannie Ducher

By James M. Loy, Miami University

Finding the words to describe Jeannie Ducher come easily to everyone who knew her. Ask anyone and they will speak of the fearless candor and charismatic nature that became synonymous with her bright and virtuous character.

“Jeannie was an unstoppable teacher, imbued with pedagogical courage and forthright in her interaction with students and colleagues,” says Tom Romano, Miami University professor emeritus of teacher education. “She had a vibrant personality and a sharp intellect. She was a problem solver and proactive. There was always a liveliness in her dark eyes. Her sense of humor was quick and appreciative, and I was always heartened by her presence.

After passing away peacefully on August 3, 2021, Ducher left behind a legacy that impacted an entire community of friends, family members, former students, and colleagues who all felt inspired by her life-long dedication to serve and empower others.

“Jeannie challenged her students and colleagues to be their best,” says Miami professor of teacher education Todd Edwards. “Her words and actions helped us grow as empathetic learners, teachers, and scholars. She taught me a number of fundamental truths about education that will inform my work with future teachers in the years to come. She will be missed but not forgotten by those whose lives she touched.”

As an educator, Ducher served as an associate clinical professor of foreign language education in Miami University’s College of Education, Health and Society (EHS), where she designed and implemented the Teaching English Language Learners (TELLs) certificate.

As a lover of language and culture, she was instrumental in helping faculty teach and engage international students, and she delivered community workshops to help local teachers and administrators work with K-12 English learners.

Ducher also worked with the State of Ohio to launch Miami’s undergraduate and graduate endorsements in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). This allows aspiring and practicing educators to add important credentials to their teaching license, and there is now a TESOL course requirement embedded within multiple teacher education programs.

Prior to arriving at Miami, Ducher earned her M.A. from the University of Paris VII France. Afterwards, she went on to receive her Ed.S. at the University of South Florida, where she formed many lifelong friendships.

“Jeannie and I shared an office in graduate school, we had a lot of laughs, drank quite a bit of coffee,” says Martha Castaneda, Miami professor of teacher education. “I remember babysitting her son Alex. I remember canoe camping with Jeannie and her family where we brought our own open fire espresso maker. I remember early beach morning walks in Belize before teaching. But most importantly, I remember my friend's sage advice. Jeannie suggested I consider dating one of the friends in our group. Jeannie was so right and I have the best partner in life in great part because of her.”

For Ducher, supporting friends and colleagues came naturally. Outside the classroom, she became an outspoken advocate for faculty members, clinical professors, lecturers, and adjuncts. “Jeannie was fearless in her advocacy,” Edwards says.

Brian Schultz, professor and chair of Miami’s department of teacher education, also recalls a memorable time when Ducher demonstrated her willingness to stand up for others.

“My favorite memory was when she put that candor and courage into action,” Schultz says. “A colleague had been behaving in ways that caused others to feel slighted and marginalized. Jeannie did not hesitate to call out the moment and the colleague in a professional yet direct way. It was clear that many of us felt the same, but while others wanted to avoid the situation, she was unafraid to take on a necessary and respectful confrontation.”

Ann MacKenzie, Miami associate professor of teacher education, also recalls how these same qualities reverberated across all aspects of her professional and personal life.

“We were in awe of her candor, honesty, and ability to tackle issues head on,” MacKenzie says. “She always had the right questions to pose when a new initiative was being introduced. No one silenced her. Everyone respected her point of view. Jeannie had spirit and was tenacious. She stood up for what was right and just and actively stamped out the wrongs occurring amongst the university, the community, and her world.”

To honor her life and legacy, EHS will create a campus memorial and a new student scholarship award in her name.

The Jeannie Ducher TESOL Scholar Award will help inspire and support a new generation of educators, especially those who exemplify the love of learning, language, and culture that eloquently embodied her life and legacy.

“Jeannie Ducher was first and foremost a dear friend, almost a sister,” says Carine Feyten, chancellor of Texas Woman’s University and former EHS dean. “She had all the skills of a great teacher and a sincere commitment to her students. She understood what it meant to not be heard and became a real advocate for students who needed a champion. She was also a strong voice in the department and brought a diversity of perspectives to the table.” 

“We will miss her more than words can say,” Feyten continues. “As she would always say, ‘Bisous ma belle.’”