Like a person talking seriously and quietly in a noisy room, Charles Vannette makes students lean in and pay attention, says a faculty colleague. He’s thoughtful, deliberate, creative, well-prepared. And when they lean in, students find someone who listens and cares.
With his special intensity, Prof. Vannette has been teaching German language, literature and culture at UNH since 2015. A scholar of the Swiss author Robert Walser, it’s Walser he turns to for grounding his teaching philosophy. Walser writes: “That, which we hold to be certain, may never become fixed, lest it break. True certainty in action and disposition requires a constant, small fluctuation: an elasticity. The ground beneath our feet should rise and fall . . . .” For Prof. Vannette, helping students develop intellectual elasticity is the goal that underscores his teaching.
“Education is a process of careful destabilization,” he says. “Learning is the facility to explore and actively pursue knowledge, and to engage in a dialog with new and challenging ideas. Our graduates need to tread confidently on unsteady ground.”
It’s not surprising, then, that Prof. Vannette’s most meaningful UNH moments have been when students have demonstrated confidence in the face of the unknown, reaching for new experiences beyond UNH through Fulbright scholarships, graduate school, internships in German science labs or jobs at U.S. embassies abroad.
“To watch a student put their learning into practice, and to watch their future open up in front of them, gives enough cause to struggle through the grind of grading German grammar exams,” he says.