Assistant Professor of German
At Knox since: 2009
by Laura Pochodylo '14
For Todd Heidt, being part of Knox College's community of scholar-teachers
means being able to pursue research without sacrificing time in the classroom.
"To be at a small residential college like Knox is a fundamentally different experience. We can do so much more," Heidt said.
An assistant professor of German at Knox, Heidt spent a summer in Germany enriching his knowledge of teaching German and uncovering key documents related to his research of early 20th century Germany.
Heidt received a German-American Fulbright Commission grant and attended a two-week seminar in Germany. The Baden-Württemberg Seminar focused on professional development with a specially selected group of German instructors from U.S. colleges and universities.
Heidt and his fellow German educators (shown in photo below) examined contemporary issues and challenges of teaching German in the U.S., including how to meaningfully supplement German language lessons with modern German culture.
"Obviously you need a textbook, and you need that basic, structured approach," Heidt said. "However, this (was) an opportunity for me to reconnect with colleagues to discuss contemporary issues in and classroom methods for teaching German as a foreign language."
Participants learned about recent developments in German secondary and post-secondary education, and they became acquainted with teaching methods at institutions offering classes in German or German as a foreign language.
These developments included the new Bologna Process, which is a Europe-wide initiative to standardize colleges and universities. It represents a systematic change that affects Knox students who choose to study abroad in Europe.
"After the seminar, I better understand this new system. This is going to help me advise our students going abroad -- whether they are going to Germany, Austria, or Switzerland -- as to what they can expect under this new system, and it's going to help us determine what courses they have taken and what the equivalents are back at Knox," Heidt said.
After finishing the seminar, Heidt stayed in Germany to conduct research about Weimar Germany, the time period between 1919 and 1933. For that project, Knox gave Heidt a grant funded through an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation award to support faculty research, scholarship, and professional development.
Heidt examined how documentary films of that era utilized fiction to enrich their stories. He also compiled a biography of photographer Mario von Bucovich, who put together a 1928 photo book depicting Berlin, for an article about his work.
During Heidt's time in Germany, he discovered "a treasure trove of material" about von Bucovich, including his failed application for German citizenship and records of his military service in World War I.
"I've used his photographs in classes on the 1920s before, but now I have a much firmer grip on who this person was, and what may have motivated him as a person and as an artist," Heidt said. "Given his unique biography, I could foresee using him in my classes as a concrete example to highlight the political instability of late 19th and early 20th century Europe."
Heidt, who has been at Knox since 2009, appreciates the balance between research opportunities and student interaction that a liberal arts school provides.
"I really enjoy the day-to-day payoff of working with undergraduates and seeing the huge leaps that they make over the course of one term at Knox," he said. "I'm not the sort of person who just disappears into my office and doesn't talk to my students. I like having my door open and having students drop in and taking what we do in the classroom outside of the classroom."