Karen (Van Devender) Goodwin

Alumni, 2001, Delta State University

1257 Bardwell Rd.

Starkville, MS 39759




November 28, 2005


Although I first had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Jim Tomek when I took his summer class, French I and II, in 1999, I was already quite familiar with his reputation.  Fellow students had described him using phrases like “different”, “intense”, “exciting”, and “like no other professor you will ever have”.  I found that these statements didn’t even begin to scratch the surface.


When I chose to take Dr. Tomek’s summer class, I was in an educational slump.  As a music major, I was frustrated with my progress and questioning my career choices.  I never suspected that taking a core foreign language elective would not only revitalize my thirst for knowledge but also change the course of my entire life.  Dr. Tomek was invigorating as a teacher.  He made French come alive by teaching through intense immersion, at a furious pace, and by using any and every topic that was interesting to the members of the class for our French discussions.  His class was as much practice as theory, if not more.  I often found myself learning to first speak correctly, and later coming to understand the structures, just as a child learns his own native language.  But what had more impact than any theory or method was that Dr. Tomek cared very deeply for each and every student.  Through the vehicle of his French classes, Dr. Tomek was able to act as counselor and confidante for me and many other students. 


Dr. Tomek’s summer class did so much to renew me that I soon chose to take additional French courses, eventually leading to a minor.  In his upper level classes, he incorporated philosophy, film, poetry, literature, music, art, and much more, so that I felt as though I really had a true understanding for French culture along with a much more enlightened view of life in general. 


I will not only recommend James Tomek as a professor, a friend, an academian, and much else; I will go so far as to say that taking a “Tomek class” is a life-altering experience that should be a graduation requirement for every curriculum!




Karen Goodwin

(instructor of music/Starkville HS)