Northwest Mississippi Community College is proud to announce that instructor Carla Townsend has been recognized as its Humanities Teacher of the Year.
Townsend is one of 30 recipients statewide being honored in the Mississippi Humanities Council’s (MHC) 2020 Humanities Teacher Awards, which pay tribute to outstanding faculty in traditional humanities fields at each of Mississippi’s institutions of higher learning.
When asked how she felt when she heard the news, Townsend described herself as a perfectionist, explaining that she did not feel deserving.
“I was really kind of dumbfounded because it’s just my third year of teaching full time,” she said.
Still, she describes the recognition as both reaffirming and humbling for her.
Townsend, a history instructor at Northwest’s DeSoto Center, is in her fifth year of teaching and her third year in the classroom. She initially taught online classes for two years as an adjunct instructor, but strongly prefers the classroom.
“I get to develop that relationship and see their faces when they find a topic really interesting,” she said.
A native of Independence, where she still resides today, Townsend is a graduate of Independence High School. With plans to go to law school, which she would later decide against, she spent two years at Northwest taking pre-law classes. Next, she studied history at the University of Southern Mississippi for a semester before completing her undergraduate studies at the University of Mississippi, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree.
After graduation, Townsend went to work in the Northwest Foundation Office, where she stayed for seven years and learned that she wanted more direct interaction with students. Helping her younger brother with a history paper also drove that desire home. Five years into her job with the Foundation, she decided to further her education. She earned her Master of Arts degree, with a concentration in European history, online through American Public University.
Townsend is passionate about the work she does, and her attentiveness to her students and how they learn best is what makes her the award-winning teacher that she has become so early in her career.
“I change the way I teach every year, and I model that off of students’ reactions and interest,” she explained.
Townsend is determined to engage students because, in her experience, many of them often do not find history to be relevant.
“I want them to realize it’s fun and it can be interesting; it’s not just a timeline,” she said. “I always tell them on the first day of class that history can read better than any fiction you’ll ever pick up.”
Case in point, Townsend will give a lecture about Virginia Hall, an American spy who worked behind enemy lines during World War II, on Wednesday, Feb. 26, as part of her Teacher of the Year recognition. Her lecture, titled “One Woman’s Fight Against the Butcher of Lyon,” is open to the public. The event will be held in room 104 in the Haraway Center, located on Northwest’s Senatobia campus, at 3 p.m.
“Everybody talks about Hitler, and everybody talks about a battle and your known figures and men and their role,” she said. “Not a lot talk about women. Everybody’s story during World War II is fascinating to me, but women’s even more so because of the limitations put on them by society.”
Townsend will be honored during the MHC’s Public Humanities Awards in Jackson on March 27. To view the full list of winners, visit mshumanities.org.