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My Manchester Story

Kurt Kurtzhals

by Lauren Hughes | Jun 06, 2019

Professor Kurt Kurtzhals – Assistant Professor in the Education Department

 

"What brought you to Manchester?"

“Well I’m originally from North Manchester, and so I’m actually – it’s more of coming back to Manchester as far as a community member is concerned. Um, when I came down – or returned to the area – I thought that if I’m lucky someday [then] perhaps I would get the chance to teach at Manchester and be able to work in the community where I live(d) and one thing led to another and here I am. The biggest thing was meeting Heather Schilling who’s the department chair here. I remember meeting her at a conference and introducing myself, and luckily she remembered me and when there was an opening for a visiting instructor a couple of years ago she thought of me and one thing led to another and here I am. I’m very happy to be here and to be back home, so to speak.”

"What got you interested in education?"

“Well, I was a student that received a lot of special education services when I was a young learner. I was pretty much a non-reader until fifth grade and received speech and language and learning support. [I] probably didn’t realize until later in life that I had dyslexia and I’m still working through that, actually. But I had teachers who changed my life… um, the first one was a second grade teacher and then I had a fifth grade teacher that really impacted me – one at the beginning of their career and one at the end of their career. And I knew in about sixth grade that I wanted to teach. I did my undergraduate work at Purdue, taught in early childhood classrooms and early elementary classrooms for about eighteen years before coming here. My reason for coming to higher education was to make an impact on the future of education. To hopefully be a positive influence on the next generation of teachers, and therefore have an impact on all of the students that they’ll have if I am a positive influence on them.”

"Are you working on any research or special projects?"

“No, I’m not working on any specific research currently. But, I do keep updated on the research so I can use that in the coursework and keep updated – especially on special education law and such. However, I am very much interested in teacher identity and there’s a lot of theory behind that. I have a lot of interest in that, and specifically when I think about students coming in here to our program – at what point in their development do they start to identify themselves as a potential teacher? Or even having that kind of role in others’ lives? And so, I’m very much interested in that and I have done a little research.”

"Do you plan on taking part in any research in the future?"

“Absolutely, I would love to be a part of that. I am working on pursuing a certification in high-ability or gifted and talented education. I am going to start that in January through Purdue University. I’m assuming that some research will come out of that.”

"What is your favorite class to teach?"

“Oh, all of them. I really do love teaching all of them. I really, really love teaching at the higher education level and I often am asked ‘what was it like transitioning from teaching second graders – seven and eight year olds – to eighteen and beyond?’ and there are some similarities, but I do love teaching no matter what. I’m always asked about my favorite class or grade, and it’s usually what you’re teaching at the time. I’m lucky to teach a lot of different classes. If I had to pick one, it’s probably creativity in the classroom, which I’ve taught a couple of times and I’ll teach again in the spring semester. Um, I really loved that one simply because I’m able to pull in a lot of personal things.”

"What are you involved in on campus?"

“I am one of the co-advisors for the student education association (SEA) here within our department - I’m co-advisor with Heather Schilling. Um, I’m also on the advisory council for our Indiana State Education Association, which is ISEA. So, I’m very much involved in SEA – I’ve been involved in SEA since I was a student leader at Purdue. I’m also a women’s assistant basketball coach. I’m part of the Title IX team but that’s just recent. That is something I will become more and more involved in.”

"What is something most people don’t know about you?"

“I’m a pretty – believe it or not, in class I tell a lot of stories but I’m not the kind of person to just throw everything out there. Um, one thing that I spend a lot of time in my creativity course is speaking about music and talking about the influence of music and that is an art form – I have absolutely zero musical talent. I wish I would’ve pursued some things when I was younger. My sisters took piano lessons but I didn’t But one thing that a lot of people don’t know about me is, previous to coming here, and even while I was teaching, I worked – I had a pretty unique and interesting position in the music industry. And so, I worked with a small record label out of Chicago and what I got to do is do some promotion and work with artists that were on their way up – working their way and building their fan bases (all prior to the influence of internet and social media). So, it was a lot of person-to-person, place-to-place, knocking on doors, and handing out handbills and such. But, um, I got to have a pretty neat role in the development of some artists that had some pretty neat success. There are some up there in my office such as John Mayer and Train, that I had a hand in helping develop some of their career – kind of the foundation of their career. But in that course, students find out about the multitude of artists that I had a chance to work with. But no, I can’t go through my day without listening to music. I have a variety of different interests, so I guess the biggest thing is – those who know me really well know what kind of influence music has, but I would say that students may not know that very well until they take that class. I’ve had a lot of really neat experiences related to music and musical artists and such.”

"At what point did you decide you wanted a career in music as well as a career in education?"

“Um, I taught and pursued music simultaneously so they weren’t different jobs. And I share this with students all the time – being a teacher and being in that position of being a responsible position (hopefully), really opens your doors to a lot of opportunities. I got interested in – I’ve been interested in music from a very young age. I grew up on a multitude of genres and music, but when I was an undergraduate student I became a little bit more ‘aware’, and I say ‘aware’ in quotes because that’s the record label I worked with – it was called ‘Aware Records’. Um, but I became a little bit more aware of different artists and kind of their backgrounds when I was an undergraduate student, and then I wanted – I moved to the Chicago area. ‘Aware Records’ is right there in Chicago and so I started by attending shows and getting to know people. I was a part of an ‘Aware Rep Program’ where I got to have some really great and memorable experiences. For about 10-12 years, it was a pretty neat time in my life and I still try to involve music into my teaching now.”

"What are your hobbies/interests?"

“Music, definitely. I listen to music all the time. Um, Fridays are one of my favorite days because new music comes out on Fridays. So, I’m always interested in what new music is coming out. I do a lot of reading, I like wood-working as well, and I do quite a bit of woodworking at the farm. But I would say those are probably my two biggest hobbies that I have. And again, when I mention to people that I really love music, they often as ‘what do you play?’ And at this point, I know it’s never too late to learn, but I have this feeling that if I really try to play something and it got me frustrated, then I might not enjoy music as much. I have deep respect for musician of any kind, and I’m a deep admirer of music.”

"What is your favorite thing about Northeast Indiana/Fort Wayne?"

“Well, to be honest with you, I don’t extend myself beyond North Manchester too much. Um, some people would think that I’m a little bit crazy because I’ve only been to Fort Wayne a handful of times since I moved back. What I like about this area is I like the small town feel. I like that just about every community you go to, you have this really neat historic downtown area and I think North Manchester is doing a really incredible job with that. Wabash is doing a really incredible job by embracing their history while also looking to the future and making sure that they’re meeting the needs of members of the community. I think the Manchester Early Learning Center is a perfect example of looking for ways to embrace the history but also look to the future to make sure that the community continues to grow. Plus, there’s farms everywhere. I was born here, moved to southern Indiana but we kept our farm here, my earliest memories are here, but the rural feel of it drew me back. I lived in the Chicago area, I’ve lived in the suburbs, I’ve even lived in the city when I lived in Boston, so I’ve had a lot of different living experiences but there’s just something really special about this area and as I tell people a lot, it feels like home.”

"What organizations and projects are you involved in throughout the community?"

“One of the things I’m most proud of is I’m one of the board members of the Manchester Early Learning Center. We just opened our new facility over on Market Street and I’m a newer member – I’m just completing my first year – but I got to be a part of that transition. So, I’m very much involved in the early education scene here in the Manchester Community. Um, not in any kind of formal way, but I also take care of a farm so I’m very much involved in farming and such too, but no actual “titles” with that other than tinkering around and keeping myself pretty busy.”

 

Thank you for sharing your story with us!