Manchester University
Oak Leaves

March 11, 2016

Kurtzhals Joins Education Dept.

Caitlin Doyle

A sense of homecoming surrounds Professor Kurt Kurtzhals’ new job at Manchester. This year, he was a visiting professor for the education department and has been offered the position permanently for the next year. He teaches Introduction to Exceptional Learners (also known as the Intro to Special Education) and is also pursuing his doctorate at Ball State with a focus in special education.

After leaving the North Manchester area when he was young, Kurtzhals eventually became a teacher. He spent the past 20 years teaching early elementary students, typically between two and eight year-olds. During this time he gained much experience of the diversity of students’ learning. “Every year that I taught, for almost twenty years, I had multiple students with different learning needs and exceptionalities,” Kurtzhals said.

The class he is teaching this year, Intro to Exceptional Learners, is a requirement for all education majors. It has helped incorporate him into the department by exposing him to a variety of the education students. There are some from every year and all are different. The class opens many students’ eyes to the realities of teaching all students and it further drives others’ passion for the job. “I think that it is important no matter what your major is to have courses like that, to help you really get a sense of the way it is really going to be,” he said.

Kurtzhals decided to pursue a career in education after some of his teachers made a huge impact on his life. In school, he had several issues with learning: dyslexia, speech issues and a processing disorder. His teachers helped him through these struggles that make learning more difficult for students.

“Teaching for me is giving back to those that have had such an impact on my life—that taught me that you’re never too old to make a difference, or too young either,” he said. Kurtzhals tries to impact others outside of the classroom as well. Within the community, he is starting a basketball program for young girls. The program would help foster love and discipline for the sport. He wants to give back to the community when he can.

Another reason for moving back to the North Manchester area was his family’s farm just outside of town. It had been maintained from afar by his family and he wanted to come back to it. Eventually, he would like to incorporate the farm as an educational facet for his students. “Beyond the courses I teach here, I would love to open up more opportunities to connect the farm with the university” he said. “One thing I thought when I left public school teaching in Illinois, was, ultimately, if the PhD program doesn’t work out, I’ll turn the farm into a kind of education center and keep teaching through that.”

Kurtzhals took one class to the farm in the fall, and it exposed numerous students to a rural lifestyle. It allowed those students to experience something that they may never have had the opportunity to be involved with otherwise.