Reflections on the 2011 Conference

By Joseph Kerski

As I reflect on the 2011 National Conference on Geographic Education in Portland, Oregon, five words come to mind.

Conference Photo

Miguel Mandujano and Munia Mustafa pose with Joseph Kerski before plenary addresses in which they discussed field work projects involving GIS, GPS, and remote sensing technologies.

Expertise. NCGE members know geography content and the discipline. Whether your specialty is soils, population, GIS, or something else, you understand the fundamental themes and tenets of geographic content, skills, and perspective. This was evident in the sessions I attended and in the conversations I had.

Enthusiasm. I would like to thank each of you who worked hard to make the 2011 conference a great success. I appreciate the time you devoted to the event and the financial sacrifice you made to be there. I heard glowing reports from participants about the field trips, papers, workshops, exhibits, awards, posters, and food. I also heard comments on the organization, friendliness, and efficiency of the NCGE staff and hotel staff and volunteers from the local arrangements committee, the Oregon Geographic Alliance, Portland State University, Texas State University, and others. The attention to every detail made a positive impact not only on the participants’ experience at the conference but also on their professional careers. Even if you were not on one of the organizing committees, your presentations, participation, and positive attitude made a difference. If we can encourage educators, especially in today’s fiscal and educational climate, we have succeeded. That is due to your enthusiasm about geography.

Tenacity. Education is not for the faint-hearted. I admire the work you are doing. You are making a difference not only in students’ lives, but throughout the education community and society. During his plenary session, Dr. Alexander Murphy’s story proved that he had to be tenacious in order to move AP Human Geography from dream to reality. We must be tenacious to move geography education into a position where it is funded, supported, respected, taught, and used throughout education and society. Nobody will do it if we don’t.

Curiosity. We are curious about all things geographic—from local community issues to global issues such as population, energy, water, and climate. Curiosity motivates us to learn, to practice what we have learned, and to teach it to others.

Teamwork. The NCGE community enables teamwork and partnerships. The partnerships we are building with the North American Association for Environmental Education, the Canadian Council for Geographic Education, the National Council for the Social Studies, and others can lead to curricular, research, and professional development projects. Further, our location in Washington, D.C., will continue to build visibility and connections. NCGE is providing critically needed contributions the NSF-funded “Road Map” project that will bring much attention to our discipline. Our partnership with publisher Taylor & Francis and with our excellent journal editors has borne much fruit. Our publications, including Geographic Literacy in the United States; Geography in America’s Schools, Libraries, and Homes; the revised National Geography Standards; and others will be valued by the community and beyond. Our webinars provide professional development and new website content. Our conference follows a model that members value, and it is beginning to attract more exhibitors and others outside our community who care about geography education.

NCGE nurtures and supports excellence in teaching and learning geography in all levels and education venues. We encourage and value our members and others in the geography education community both personally and professionally, provide professional development and curricular development, conduct research, and produce scholarship about that research. NCGE partners with other organizations to make a positive impact on teaching, learning, educational research, and educational policy. Our goal is to instill in every person an understanding of geographic content, skills, and perspectives that enable wise decision making. Our expertise, enthusiasm, tenacity, curiosity, and teamwork can help make this happen.

Joseph Kerski, NCGE’s 2011 President, is an education manager with Esri in Broomfield, Colorado.

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