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Prioritizing Good Teaching

Ron Kalafsky

In the rush to rank universities and among all of myriad functions that a university and its faculty serve, the importance of good teaching is often forgotten or seen to have less of a priority.

Fortunately, this not the case within the Department of Geography, as our faculty are constantly retooling their curricula, engaging in pedagogical research, and implementing new teaching methods in their classrooms. As a result of these efforts and achievements in the classroom, our faculty and graduate students have garnered numerous teaching-related awards at the college, university, regional, and national levels.

Across the department, geographers are innovating in the classroom and working with students. Furthermore, this teaching excellence manifests itself in different ways. Michael Camponovo excels in teaching our introductory to geographic information systems, and then takes it a step further with his valuable outreach efforts among K-12 communities across Tennessee. One of our alums, Caleb Clark, integrates geography into his secondary international baccalaureate classroom environment – no small feat given the relative lack of geography in K-12 curricula. Finally, Kelsey Ellis continues to inspire a new generation of geographers in her climate-related classes. All of these efforts (and myriad successes) are critical, as a geographical perspective is needed more than ever to address global challenges.

When we attend academic conferences, we are often asked, “What is your teaching load?” Essentially, we are being asked how many courses we teach per year. I have never viewed teaching as a load and neither do the geography faculty. To the contrary – as you’ll see in the newsletter, we consider it an honor to teach and it energizes and informs our scholarship.

Best wishes until next year,

Ron Kalafsky
Professor & Head Department of Geography