• Photo: Bonnie Findley

Anne Smith Mansfield’s passion for geography began with Peru. A poster board cut-out in the shape of the country helped earn her the prestigious Grade 5 social studies award, and she’s been in love with geography ever since.

Today, Smith Mansfield instructs future geography teachers in the faculty of education at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont. Credited with being the first person in Canada to use giant floor maps as teaching aids (Canadian Geographic Education’s 11-by-8-metre maps are now used by schools across the country), she says she just wants to open the eyes of future teachers to what geography is all about. “And,” she adds, “I want them to be excited about the opportunity to teach it.”

A fierce advocate for preserving geography as a core subject in high school curricula, she also believes in ongoing professional support for its teachers. “If we want good teachers in the system, they have to know about the subject to begin with, and we need to support them in learning more,” she says.

For Smith Mansfield, the mark of a good teacher is passion. And humour is one of her best teaching tools: she often shows up to class in her map blazer, globe-printed runners and dangling globe earrings.

“My hope is that if I appear to like this stuff so much, students will sit back and say, ‘maybe there’s something to this.’”