In the community

TVCC’s Kurth honored by Ontario chamber, sees education empowering students

ONTARIO – Dana Young, Treasure Valley College president, said most teachers win awards at the end of their career to recognize their accomplishments before they retire.

But, Young said, honoring social science instructor Joe Kurth as this year’s Ontario Area Chamber of Commerce Educator of the Year midway through his career is “well-deserved recognition” for his accomplishments and inspiring other teachers to continue to do good work.

As Young sees it, celebrating a good educator “is not dependent on years served, but on hard work, effort and dedication at any point in a career.”

Kurth, born and raised in Ontario, began his career at the college as a part-time instructor in 2008 and was granted academic tenure in 2021.

With a bachelor’s degree in history from the College of Idaho and a master’s in history from Boise State University, Kurth teaches political science, history, and ethnic studies and is chair of the Social Science Department.

Kurth said he grew up in a home that valued education, which, he said, has been of “paramount importance” in his life and all that he has accomplished.

Kurth, whose family owns Andrews Seed Co. in Ontario, said he credits his parents, who earned degrees from Treasure Valley Community College, for instilling in him how important education is in empowering people and creating opportunities down the road in life.

“I came into the game with this presumption that education is incredibly important, he said. “I’ve always tried to convey that to my students.”

Kurth said his roots with Treasure Valley go back to taking dual credit courses, classes that count as high school and college credit and attending athletic events.

As a history instructor, Kurth said he likes to quote one of his favorite historians, Lawrence Principe at Johns Hopkins University. He said Principe has pointed out that history, more than any other subject, gives a student a sense of perspective on society and current events.

Kurth said that having that historical perspective is fundamental for other classes he teaches, which include ethnic studies and government.

Kurth said he takes an “anthropological approach” to teaching history, which, he said, looks at the structures that people and societies put into place to help resolve issues.

In addition to his teaching, Kurth is the faculty adviser for the school’s Phi Theta Kappa chapter, an international honors society for students. He became the faculty adviser about a year ago and considers himself “a rookie adviser.”

He volunteers his time to read student scholarship essays and attend monthly meetings. Kurth said the honors society on campus is a good group of students. 

Young said Kurth has been an “unwavering advocate” for programs on campus that keep students engaged in their education.

She noted that students selected Kurth as TVCC’s Teacher of the Year in 2022.

Kurth attributes the back-to-back awards to the bedrock values his parents ingrained in him about the value of an education. He said he’s taken part over the years in discussing what kind of education someone needs in today’s economy and what will best set young people up for success.

He said some will say that they got a college degree and never used it in their careers. Nonetheless, he said, for most people in Ontario, a college education will empower them. Students gain a skill, learn how to network and build discipline that will open opportunities that would otherwise not be there for them. He said he gets countless emails from former students telling them about degrees they have earned and careers that they have forged that would not have been possible if not for the college.

“It’s TVCC that operates as this sort of vehicle,” he said, “this funnel for empowered individuals who can go out and succeed and contribute to the community and maybe one day send their kids back to TVCC.”

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