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Mr. T on life and teaching in America
DeAnn Reed
Antelope Staff
Photo by DeAnn Reed

His students affectionately call him Mr. T. It is really an excuse. Stuttering over his African name means a student risks being embarrassed. African names don’t exactly roll off an American tongue, and for this UNK professor his nickname indicates respect. Dr. Frank Tenkorang, associate professor in the department of economics, has been at UNK for four years. His lighthearted approach to education and to the field he has mastered helps his students learn what can be a difficult subject — economics.

Ask any of the students he has served, and they will tell you that Jeopardy day on Friday means extra credit and an opportunity to test their economics skills. But Frank’s expertise is not just about teaching, it is also about navigating his education and his family in a country thousands of miles away from Ghana, Africa.

Is your wife from Africa?
Yes she is also from Ghana. But she is a Canadian citizen now.  

Did you get married in Africa or did you get married here in Canada or the states?
Well we did a traditional marriage in Ghana. This was done between families. We did the formal marry in Canada.

What is the marriage ceremony like in Ghana?
We have the traditional one, but these days because of Christianity, they are calling it the engagement. But it used to be the traditional marriage.
The churches are requiring you have a western marriage, you know wedding-white gown. But a traditional one is where your parents go to see the girl’s parents let them know about their son’s interest in your daughter. So they go for some drinks, and if accepted they will come up for dates and the other members of the family come together and celebrate.

What are the slight subtle differences between a traditional wedding in the United States where usually it is the groom that goes to the dad and says, “Dad I really like your daughter, and I would like to marry her.”

That is what I am talking about where the guy’s family goes to see the lady’s family, and we call it knocking. You knock, and if the door is open then it means you are welcome to come to join the family.

So, even accepting the invitation is huge.

What if they didn’t even accept the invitation? How would you have felt if your wife-to-be’s parent’s said? “I don’t think so. We don’t think he is a good man.” Does that happen?

Yeah it could. We have different tribes, and some family members want them to marry from the same tribe.  So, that’s a huge problem. And the other problem is if we had met here and her parents didn’t know me, they would have been a bit more concerned. They knew me in Ghana so…

It was all cool.
Yeah right!   

So where did the playing Jeopardy in class come into play? Because that was always fun when you did that in your class.

That came from a Purdue professor; he likes jokes. There are clean jokes and bad jokes, and he made it clear from the beginning he was not interested in bad jokes. Clean jokes — yes all the time. Games here and there.  

Are there any goals you would like for your students to be able to have when they walk out of your class?

One thing I want to have is not just the economic concept. But whatever you do, you don’t know where this will take you in the future. Look at issues. Why is that thing there? What can I do about it? If you have this mentality, you can apply this to everything wherever you go.
That is how I see things. That is one thing I want to impart: When a student leaves my class, I want not just the good grades or the economic concept, but to understand whenever you have a problem, how do you approach that problem?


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