Last month, Keene State College honored the Distinguished Teacher of the Year award to Dr. Hank F. Knight, the director of the Cohen Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies.
“To receive that award here is special because it is from the people I work with here. It is an affirmation of not just what you do, but why you do what you do. It means, to me, that the connections I’m trying to make in the classroom are happening, and it’s motivation to do better,” Knight said.
Knight explained why students might find his courses memorable, “I think what my students keep and take is a sense of interacting with their world in a much more thoughtful and critical way. I emphasize asking them to tell me what they see. I think that my students would tell you that they see more of their world and more of themselves in their world, as consequence of classes that we have together. And I say it that way: we have together. It’s a relationship. It’s not me talking at them, it’s us in conversation together.”
Senior Holocaust and Genocide Studies major Abbie Terwilliger shared the announcement on Facebook, “I was very happy about it. I was just really proud of him. He really deserves it, he’s an amazing teacher,” Terwilliger voiced.
Terwilliger said her excitement was drawn from her experience of being a student of Dr. Knight’s for the past two years, “He’s a great professor to have in class because he tries to make everyone comfortable and he doesn’t want anyone uncomfortable in the class. I mean, it’s a hard topic we learn about, so he tries to make sure everyone’s okay, but at the same time tries to make us see farther into the topic.”
Alumnus Tanner Semmelrock, while at Keene State majored in Holocaust and Genocide Studies, had a similar reaction, “My first emotion was that I was extremely happy for him. During my four years at Keene State I saw Knight do so much for the campus community and for myself.”
“During numerous class sessions, one thing I’ll always remember, is he would ask us, ‘Where are you?’ Whether it was after reading a book or after a class discussion, he always placed a heavy importance on self reflection and this still sticks with me today,” Semmelrock said.
Knight assured that although he won the award, there is still a lot for him to acquire the knowledge of. “I’m still learning how to teach. I’m learning from my students. Good teaching is always an evolving relationship with people, your students, with people who are your colleagues, and also with the subject matter. I think the most successful teachers are the ones who can communicate with their students that they’re still learning, they’re still exploring new things, and that they’re able to draw his or her students into that learning process. I don’t just want to feed them, I want them to develop a thirst about learning the same subject matter.”
Amanda Bevis can be contacted at