Manchester University
Oak Leaves

May 11, 2018

Traxler (1)

Dr. Janina Traxler retires this semester after 39 years of teaching at MU. She will give her final "Last Lecture" on May 11 at 5:15 p.m. in Link Auditorium

Photo by Maraki Tihtina

Traxler Retires after 39 Years of Teaching French, English at MU

Teresa Masteller 

Manchester alumna Dr. Janina Traxler will retire next week after 39 years of teaching French and English courses at the university.

Traxler’s interest in language started in the high school of her central Indiana hometown when she had her first French class. “I fell in love with the intricacies and problems of learning language, and the satisfaction that comes with speaking in another language,” Traxler said.

She found herself intrigued not only by the language, but also the culture, which is what she focused on in her teaching. “You’re never teaching just French,” she said. “You’re teaching about seeing a culture in a different way or seeing yourself in a different way. This includes getting inside the way of thinking of people that speak that language. I find it all fascinating.”

Traxler first heard about Manchester University, then called Manchester College, from a neighbor and public-school teacher who had graduated from the school. Overall, choosing where to go to college was quite simple for Traxler. “I’m a baby boomer, so there were lots of us going off to college and enrollments were pretty big,” she said. “We didn’t spend the kind of process on it that people today do. So, I just kind of chose a couple, and ended up here,” she added with a laugh.

While a student at Manchester, Traxler double-majored in French and math, and she received her teacher certification for secondary education. She spent her sophomore year studying in France. During her junior year, she started dating now-Professor Emeritus John Planer, and at the end of her senior year, she married him.

Traxler and Planer arrived at Manchester at the same time—she as a student, and he as a professor. As a member of the band, Traxler often saw Planer, as he was a professor of music, but she gives credit to her then-roommate, who was a music major, for setting them up during her junior year. They have been married 45 years and have two children together. As they were both eventually professors, they often spent their anniversary looking through exams or grading papers.

From a very young age, Traxler knew she wanted to be a teacher, but she had no idea the way it would unfold. “At age 18, you don’t know what you’re going to do,” she said. “You might know what you want to do, but you don’t really know what you’re going to do,” Traxler said. “When I was that age, I knew exactly what I going to be, I was going to be a junior high math teacher.”

After graduating from Manchester College, Traxler taught French and math at Manchester High School, Elementary French at Indiana University and French and English in the People’s Republic of China. In addition, she has completed masters and doctoral degrees at Indiana University.

While at Manchester, Traxler experienced how much of an impact some professors can have on their students.  “One thing I often say is that, as I look over my education there is a small number of teachers that really change your life,” Traxler said. “I can think of four. Two of them were at Manchester. I saw precision of thought and that care of how to articulate ideas. I really started to appreciate the value of that intellectual rigor.”

Traxler is no foreigner to traveling; she’s been to many places including Kenya, the British Isles and Senegal, to name a few. But, of course, her favorite place to travel is France. Her first trip was the summer after her senior year of high school, and it was organized through her local 4-H program. She travelled to six countries during a timespan of two weeks.

During this trip, Traxler spent her time visiting farms, doing touristy things and missing the moon landing of ’69. Her 4-H group was in Moscow at the time, and instead of watching the event on television like a lot of Americans, their television screens were blacked out by the Soviets.

As she looks ahead to retirement, Traxler is anticipating the flexibility of a not-so-busy-lifestyle. “I look forward to the flexibility of traveling in . . . September or . . . April,” Traxler said. “And sewing. Just doing things for no other reason than I simply want to, and not worrying about if it fits into the academic vacation, or whether it supports some sort of professional development I’m doing.”

What accomplishments is she most proud of? Traxler first mentions her children. “My greatest satisfaction in life is knowing that the two children that we have, and who have grown up with us, have gone off and become very impressive people,” she said. “No money can buy that. Anybody who’s a parent knows how fragile our success can be. After that I’d say I have had a job that I loved for 40 years, and no one could buy that either. I enjoy the act of teaching.

“I hope that students who come to Manchester take the chance to explore and really use all of the potential of this place to their educational advantage,” Traxler continued. “We have a core of teachers that are just incredible people and some students really take full benefit from that and not everybody does, and that’s too bad.”