Rich Fehlman

From Telemedium, The Journal of Media Literacy

Vol 51, No 1&2. Published Spring 2005

The 2004 Jessie McCanse Award Honors Richard Fehlman

Richard Fehlman, pioneering media educator in English education, has been honored with the 2004 Jessie McCanse award for Individual Contribution to Media Literacy. On a sunny wintry Wisconsin day in Madison, the event took place this past February 25 at a reception following the annual conference of Arts Educators that included design, distance education and media literacy in the Arts.

In accepting the award from NTC President Karen Ambrosh, Rich concluded his remarks with a glimpse of where it all started for him: “I‘d like to thank my parents,” he stated, “for allowing me to live in a home environment rich in all kinds of media. Access to these texts helped me to come to appreciate media without the fear of being socially or psychologically harmed in some way.”


Recognized among the leaders in both English education and media literacy education, Dr. Fehlman is known as innovator and a passionate leader whose pioneering work incorporating media literacy in the teaching of English has played an important role in the development of media literacy in the United States. 

Dr. Fehlman is an associate professor in the Department of Teaching at the University of Northern Iowa where he coordinates the student teaching centers in the region. To this new position in his long career, he brings his experience of more than thirty-five years as a teacher of English. Midwest born, Rich has been a media advocate since the late sixties when he began teaching high school in Illinois. Here he began using film in the English curriculum and later applied his experience to his Master’s work in film theory and criticism and his Ph.D. dissertation in English education at the University of Iowa, focusing on those teachers choosing to use media in their classes.

Beyond his formal course work, first as inspiring, innovative High School teacher and later at the University level, Rich has been an active contributor to the literature through his articles, book chapters, his role as editor, his active leadership role as lecturer and conference Chair, promoting media literacy through professional organizations, most notably the National Council of Teachers of English where he founded and chaired the Assembly on Media Arts; and the National Telemedia Council, on whose Board he served, and continues today on the editorial Board of this Journal. Here he continues to provide major contributions and leadership, the most recent of which is as the lead editor of the Emerging Scholars Essay Project which has opened the pages of Telemedium to new scholars in the field.


In the classroom and among his fellow teachers, Rich Fehlman has consistently championed the use of media and the literacies they open up, as part of the learning experience; his sound pedagogical principles are based on his philosophy that excellence and meaningful learning take place in an environment where interest, thought, self-expression flourish, and where the joy of learning can freely reign. Through his enthusiasm, he passed his vision on to others. 

Rich epitomizes the spirit in which the Jessie McCanse award was created.  This award, established in 1987 on her 90th birthday, is a tribute to NTC’s Co-founder in recognition of her lifelong dedication and leadership role in pioneering the field of media literacy education, her sixty years as leader of the organization, and her steadfast philosophy which champions a positive approach together with the highest standards of excellence, fairness, ethics and innovation. In recognizing the example set by Mrs. McCanse, the award is given for individual contribution over a long and sustained period of time. It honors individuals whose contribution exemplifies her high principles and dedication.