Teacher of the Week - Hilda Kurtz

Hilda Kurtz

Professor,  Department of Geography

“Actively engaged students contribute to collective success in the classroom” 

The Center for Teaching and Learning recognizes Hilda Kurtz as CTL Teacher of the Week. Kurtz is a Professor of Geography in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.

For Dr. Hilda Kurtz, teaching means facilitating participation among each and every member of the class. Lectures that allow ample opportunities for probing questions and the deep discussions that follow are fundamental to successful teaching. This kind of participation requires students to apply what they already know to the questions and scenarios that arise during the lesson. Dr. Kurtz’ subject matter, geography, proves advantageous in this respect. As the study of the relationships between humans and their environments, geography has a clear relevance to the day to day life of every student. By examining their own relationships with the physical environment in which they exist, students have an existing body of knowledge on which to draw and expand upon.

Dr. Kurtz seeks to help students unearth things they already know, but perhaps have never deeply examined, about geography’s influence over their lives. This is the raw material which she must refine into new areas of knowledge. As she explains, “My role is to facilitate a process of pooling and naming geographical knowledge in order to develop and apply a conceptual vocabulary.” Once the students have a vocabulary in place, they are equipped to view their relationship to their environment through new perspectives which they can then discuss with one another and apply to the wider world. By introducing students to their own inherent knowledge, Dr. Kurtz helps her students naturally arrive at new discoveries and revelations.

To ensure a culture of participation in her classroom, Dr. Kurtz draws on lessons she has learned over her teaching career. “The best advice I was given about teaching was to make the classroom a place I looked forward to spending time in.” She makes sure to convey to the students that she is excited to be there each and every day. Furthermore, she makes an effort to get to know her students personally and to bring people together through small group activities so that there are no strangers by the end of the semester. As a professor of geography, it is fitting that Dr. Kurtz is mindful of the relationship between her students and the classroom environment. Her greatest strength as a teacher is using this relationship to facilitate deep engagement and learning.”

See Dr. Kurtz’s departmental profile: http://geography.uga.edu/directory/profile/kurtz-hilda-e/