A key attribute of a truly great teacher is the desire to completely immerse oneself in the field he or she is teaching. For Columbia College Online faculty member Dr. Jennifer Teichman Kerr, that field of expertise is history, a topic that grabbed her attention during her doctoral studies at the University of Missouri in the late 1990s. However, the seeds of her love for history had been planted since the day she was born and have blossomed throughout her life.
“I was born and raised on my family farm in Lexington, Missouri, and it has been in my family for seven generations. I was actually the first person in my family to go to college and earn a degree,” Kerr says. “I took a history class as an undergrad and absolutely loved it. I had no idea when I entered college that I would end up a history major, but I loved the class so much that I started taking some other classes and just fell in love with the subject.”
Since 1999, Kerr has imparted that love of history to her students as a member of the Columbia College Evening Campus faculty (1999-2001) and now as one of the longest-serving faculty members for the Columbia College Online Campus (2002-present). She has taught and developed several classes for the Online Campus, but points to History 359: Rise and Fall of the British Empire and History 336: 19th and 20th Century History of Europe as two of her favorite courses.
“I was looking for a teaching job and applied at Columbia College and was lucky enough to get hired in 1999,” Kerr says. “When the Online Campus started, I was recruited and it was an easy decision because I loved Columbia College. The only reason I couldn’t teach there anymore is because I had moved, so it was a great way to get back into teaching at the college.”
During her time as an adjunct faculty member, Kerr has earned a master’s degree in history from the University of Central Missouri, a doctorate in history from the University of Missouri and a juris doctorate from the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law.
Kerr has practiced law in Lexington for the past four years, going to work every day in the oldest courthouse in use west of the Mississippi. As a matter of fact, she likes to point out that there is still a cannonball in one of the columns in front of the courthouse from the Battle of Lexington, which occurred there in her hometown in 1861.
While her field is focused on looking back at the happenings of the world, Kerr has worked to stay ahead of the latest education delivery options the college has to offer. She often utilizes multimedia resources as part of her class offerings and is always looking to find new techniques to bring into her classes, whether it’s video or some other tool.
“Technology is always changing, and we have a great support team there at the main campus,” Kerr says. “Columbia College is always good about staying in front of the changes, helping instructors and making sure we get the latest technology incorporated into our classes.”
Whether she is helping students in countries halfway around the world or presenting to the Lexington Rotary about the history of Lafayette County, Kerr’s passion for history, hard work and teaching shines through.
“I learned to have a really strong work ethic from my family and that has served me well in my community and in my teaching career,” Kerr says. “When you’re teaching online, all students interact with each other and with me. I know it sounds hard to believe, but I get to know my students a lot better in the online environment, and I love that part of teaching online classes.”