Award-Winning Faculty: Two From GES Honored at Conference

Two faculty from the department of Geography and Environmental Sciences (GES) were recognized at the 2019 National Council for Geographic Education (NCGE) annual meeting. Irina Kopteva, Assistant Research Professor, received an award for “Best Paper” for her publication “Humanizing Human Geography Online: The Quality Matters Journey” which appeared in The Geography Teacher this year. Rebecca Theobald, Assistant Research Professor, received the NCGE President’s Award for her contribution to geography education. Read on to learn more.

Dr. Irina Kopteva

Dr. Irina Kopteva receiving her award at the 2019 NCGE conference.

In 2019, I was honored to receive The Geography Teacher Award from the National Council for Geographic Education for my contribution entitled, “Humanizing Human Geography Online: The Quality Matters Journey.” The NCGE Geography Teacher Award Task Force chose my paper as the best content article in their flagship publication. The award-winning article describes my efforts in upgrading an online human geography course to bring it up to the Quality Matters standards, a national program that aims to ensure quality online education. Human geography is taught at the UCCS Department of Geography and Environmental Studies in both traditional face-to-face and online settings. Roughly 40% of students who take the Introduction to Human Geography course have chosen to take it online during the past nine years. These statistics highlight the importance of online geography education and raise key questions about how to provide quality geography instruction enlightening students on complex visual problems and challenging social issues. I began thinking about upgrading the Introduction to Human Geography course after noticing that students struggled with some assignments and asked the same questions each semester.  I approached the UCCS Faculty Resource Center (FRC) that provides faculty development and technology services to facilitate implementation of faculty ideas. The FRC introduced me to the Quality Matters program ( that was developed by a non-profit from research funded by the U.S. Department of Education. The Introduction to Human Geography course enhancements resulted in its recognition by the Quality Matters program in 2015. A comprehensive learner-centered design meets national benchmarks in online education and provides a full educational experience with diverse geography instruction and an efficient learning community. Find my article at at

Dr. Rebecca Theobald

Dr. Rebecca Theobald

The following is the text of the award presentation made by Kenneth Keller, President, National Council for Geographic Education, Austin, Texas, November 2019

“It is my honor and a pleasure to present this year’s NCGE President’s Award for Outstanding Support for Geography Education to Rebecca Theobald, Assistant Research Professor of Geography at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs.

Rebecca has been a passionate advocate for geography education for many years. She has shown this love of geography through many roles, activities, and extensive time spent. For example, as editor of NCGE’s outstanding publication “The Geography Teacher”, she has devoted countless hours editing articles, lesson plans, and book reviews which have been accessed by geography educators from across the world. Her extensive work with GeoCivics engages students and teachers to use National Geographic’s Giant Maps to understand better demographic changes taking place within United States and geospatial technology to explore approaches to electoral redistricting.  She encourages teachers to incorporate Esri’s GeoInquiries and National Geographic’s Giant Maps into their lesson plans.  With her colleague Steve Jennings, she supported development of the Colorado Digital Atlas and the test bank for the Advanced Placement Human Geography exam, which reflects the new course and exam description.

Thank you again Rebecca for all you do to support and promote geography education. I am proud to consider you my colleague and my friend.”

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