Providing experiential learning opportunities and establishing strong connections with his students are two contributors to Christopher Kurz’s success in the classroom. His triumphs are the result of thought-provoking and practical applications of his lessons and his ability to adapt his teaching style and philosophy to meet the changing needs of his diverse students.
Kurz, an associate professor in NTID’s secondary education of students who are deaf or hard-of-hearing master’s program and a 1995 graduate of RIT’s applied mathematics program in the College of Science, is one of this year’s recipients of the Eisenhart Award for Outstanding Teaching. Kurz helps develop the talents of his students who will soon re-enter classrooms around the world in a different capacity — as educators of deaf and hard-of-hearing secondary students.
“My inspiration comes from seeing my students improve their skills, grow, become professionals,” he said. “I have also learned to connect deeper with my students and learn more about where they come from, what they bring to the table. My students and I — we have a mutually beneficial relationship.”
Kurz is also known for making his lessons come alive. For several years, he has taught deaf history courses in which students examine artifacts like school diaries written by deaf students in the 19th century, war-era dollar bills that were published by a school for the deaf during wartime, and antiquated instructional materials to catch a glimpse into what life was like for deaf people over the past 400 years. He also enlists a technique called “Theatre in Education,” where actors dressed as Edward Gallaudet, Alexander Graham Bell and other famous pioneers in deaf history entertain and educate through debates designed to spark conversations about deaf life and issues in deaf education from decades past. Kurz’s students also develop partnerships and curricular and historical research projects alongside Rochester School for the Deaf that, accordingly to Kurz, is rich in local deaf history.
“I want to be a driving force in raising the bar for students in the field of deaf education,” he added. “I’m a product of deaf education, so it’s important for me to be a catalyst in educating and preparing the next generation of teachers of the deaf.”