Augustana is beginning a new feature to bring you inside of our classrooms. Spend a few minutes getting to know professor Kim Misfeldt who has taught language, culture and literature classes at Augustana for over 20 years (pictured above teaching her class outdoors in 2012). Professor Misfeldt is also vice dean at Augustana and is the recipient of a number of teaching awards, including the University of Alberta’s prestigious Vargo Teaching Chair.
How long have you been teaching? How long have you been teaching at Augustana?
I’ve been teaching at Augustana since 1991. Prior to teaching at Augustana, I taught a little bit at the University of Saskatchewan, the University of Regina and Queens.
What’s your favourite part of teaching?
My favourite part of teaching is getting to know what students are thinking. Through all of the different classes I teach, including the First Year Seminar on “protest”, language classes, culture classes and literature classes (and gender studies plays a role in all of that), what gives me joy is actually having interaction with students and getting to know them as individuals. I frequently receive emails from students relating how their lives have changed because they took one of my classes, and that’s the greatest long term joy of my life. My favourite thing to hear from students is “Oh, I never thought of it that way”.
Tell us about your most memorable teaching experience.
I have a story on my teaching dossier about a student who wrote that my course was the first university class he attended where he felt like his opinion really mattered. I had another student who had been a cutter for most of her young life—her arms were covered in scars—and my class was the first time she wore a short-sleeved shirt in public because she felt comfortable. I’ve also had students feel that they can come out because of the support that they have felt in my classes. The most important thing to me is that my students feel like their voice matters.
Tell us about your most memorable experience being taught.
My mom was a teacher, and her students were always very important to her. She didn’t just teach them in class, but well beyond the classroom. When she died at 77, many people wrote to the family to say “your mom cared about me” or “I had your mom as a grade three teacher” and it was amazing to us that she had such a lasting impact after so long. I was taught from both of my parents from an early age that people matter for who they are and that every student is an individual.
What’s one thing you want your students to know before attending or choosing to attend your class?
Try it—it won’t be what you expected.
What’s one thing you want the general public to know about a course or a particular subject that you teach?
I would want people to know that intercultural knowledge and language are so crucial in this interconnected world that we all live in. Learning another language isn’t only about grammar (…of course, you do have to learn grammar) or vocabulary, it’s about learning that there are different ways of thinking, of approaching an idea or topic, and that those different ways can coexist so we can learn together. And the COVID-19 pandemic is really showing that—scientists from all over the world have to work together now more than ever, and even if there’s not a language barrier, there might be a cultural barrier. If you’ve never learned or thought about how a different culture approaches whatever topic, then there’s no way that you can understand just through language alone.
What has teaching remotely been like?
I was teaching a small directed studies course, so it worked quite well and I didn’t have to change anything on my syllabus. The fact that I’ve never been a lecturer also helps. I firmly believe in an interactive classroom that is based on input from all parties. In moving this particular class, I’ve been able to have normal discussion classes like I had in the classroom.
Bonus Question #2 from professor Misfeldt herself:
The question that I wasn’t asked: If you love teaching so much, why are you an administrator?
I want people in leadership positions at universities to be people who truly care about the individual student and what goes on in the classroom. If we let administrators become people who aren’t great teachers, they may not have what happens in the classroom as their top priority. I’ve been a department chair and vice dean because I want to be at the table to ensure that students remain the primary focus.
Kim Misfeldt (pictured with Dean Demetres Tryphonopoulos) was recently awarded the 2019 Vargo Teaching Chair from the University of Alberta. The Vargo Teaching Chair supports individuals who have a history of educational leadership, teaching innovation and who are committed to enhancing the learning experience of students at all levels.