As the recent recipient of the university-wide Outstanding Teaching by a Doctoral Student Award, Margaret Montgomery sat down for a brief interview about her approach to teaching:
Q. What do you think are the essential components of being a good teacher?
First and foremost you have to care about your students. I don’t think you can be a great teacher if you do not sincerely want your students to do well inside and outside of the classroom. Helping them master material is great, but a truly wonderful classroom is where students also grow as individuals. You also have to care about what you’re teaching and let your excitement about the material shine.
Q. How do you bring your research into the classroom?
I find that the best way I can bring my research into the classroom is not by giving lectures on the Women’s Army Corps (though that would be fun), but rather by introducing the themes of gender and race into the overarching narrative. Helping students see that gender and race are important things to consider along with the more “traditional” themes of history is the best part of my job.
Q. Why do you want to teach?
I love the challenge of teaching and find it so rewarding and fun. I live for the moments where I see students getting excited about the material…Teaching is something that never stays the same. There are always new approaches, new material, and new students. Perhaps most importantly, teachers have the power to help students feel seen. I had a professor while a student at Sewanee who took me aside and told me that I had talent in historical analysis. I eventually became a history major because of him. I try my best to teach by his example and let students know that I see them more than just a learner in the classroom, but as a whole person. It’s a teacher’s superpower.