Teaching Excellence Awards

 Year Awarded: 2010

Faculty Award winner

Kristin G. Congdon

 College of Arts and Humanities

 Philosophy

My approach to education is informed by my early and ongoing experiences teaching in a variety of settings. Besides working in public schools (elementary, middle, and high school), I have also taught art in correctional facilities, residential treatment centers, museums, Elderhostels and retirement homes. My students have been from every walk of life, both highly motivated, and sometimes, physically and emotionally uninvolved. I try to learn something from each teaching experience. Because I teach philosophy (aesthetics), the humanities, and until a year ago, film, I am able to use examples (most often from the visual arts) to ground difficult concepts, making it easy for me to capture the attention of my audience. Everyone who can see, and even those who visualize only in their mind’s eye, can become engaged with images. The response is individual and cultural. As a teacher, it is my job to select a variety of images and pedagogical approaches to engage a student. Setting the stage or creating the context for each artwork has become increasingly important to me. I ask my students to engage in a dialogue with artwork in ways that answer questions relevant to them. This process often includes addressing topics that cross disciplines and involve issues of economics, race, class, gender, or one’s sexual or political orientation. Having taught in a number of departments (art, film, digital media, and philosophy) has allowed me to engage in more than one discipline, an opportunity that has enriched my teaching experience in that I have been able to apply one more than one disciplinary approach to each setting. It has also placed me in a position that has challenged me, as I must learn to ground myself in the appropriate language of a variety of disciplines. Teaching students that come from varying disciplinary orientations, as well as cultural backgrounds, means I have to work harder at what I do, but it also means that I gain from each new experience.