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Six UF/IFAS Faculty Members Receive National NACTA Educator Awards

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Faculty of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences were honored for their teaching acumen in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at the 63rd annual North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture (NACTA) conference in June.

Each year, the NACTA conference recognizes faculty, staff and students across the nation who are on the cutting edge of teaching agriculture and related disciplines at the university level. Recipients of the NACTA Educator Award are evaluated on their teaching philosophy; recommendations by students, alumni, peers and administrators; and a self-evaluation.

Seventeen UF faculty and two graduate students contributed to the conference through workshops as well as oral and poster presentations in the areas of online and digital education tools, student assessments, collaborative projects, curriculum, student employment, hands-on learning experiences and study abroad opportunities. Several UF/CALS alumni who are now faculty at other postsecondary institutions also attended and presented at the conference.

“UF/CALS is consistently recognized for its teaching excellence, one of our college’s top priorities,” said CALS Dean Elaine Turner. “More than 50 UF/IFAS faculty have earned the NACTA Educator Award since 1990. We are proud of this year’s UF/CALS recipients for their innovative teaching methods.”

The following faculty members received 2017 NACTA Educator Awards:

  • Martie Gillen, an assistant professor in the family, youth and community sciences department. She hopes her students “become engaged in and passionate about the issues that affect society” through experiential learning. When the opportunity arises, she likes to use the community as her classroom through service learning and events. Gillen’s students said she is approachable, encouraging and enthusiastic when teaching. Her department chair noted that Gillen is “tireless in her quest to continue to improve her courses.”
  • Kevin Kenworthy, professor in the agronomy department. Kenworthy said the driving force behind his approach to teaching is considering how his students will learn and retain information from his courses. He finds different ways for students to personally relate to the subject matter. One of Kenworthy’s students mentioned that many of her friends and peers hope to have him as their genetics professor. “Both graduate and undergraduate students are drawn to work with Dr. Kenworthy as they know he puts their welfare ahead of his own,” his department chair said.
  • Andrea Lucky, assistant scientist in the entomology and nematology department. Lucky firmly believes that active participation in the scientific process is essential to learning. This is why she finds unique opportunities for her students to “learn by doing” through field trips, art and citizen science projects. A former student studying finance said Lucky’s “enthusiastic teaching and dedication in and out of class was the sole reason that made me want to pursue a minor in entomology and nematology.”
  • Lisa Lundy, associate professor in the agricultural education and communication department. Lundy’s teaching philosophy centers around experiential learning opportunities for students to create communications solutions for real problems. Her students characterize her as an authentic, dedicated, inspirational, driven and innovative educator. One of her peer faculty members mentioned Lundy always ensures her curriculum incorporates the latest instructional and communication technologies in the classroom.
  • Debra Murie, associate professor in the school of forest resources and conservation. Murie aims to challenge students to question current knowledge and approaches to natural resources through current issues in the fisheries industry. Students note that some of their most memorable learning experiences in Murie’s classroom came from Murie’s own first-hand experiences and case studies. Murie’s peers said she has a commitment to continuous curriculum development and always has a willingness to improve her students’ learning experience.
  • Brian Pearson, assistant professor of environmental horticulture at the UF/IFAS Mid-Florida Research and Education Center. As a teacher of both distance education programs and in-person courses, Pearson’s student learning objectives utilize web-based laboratories, virtual field trips, interactive web-based lectures and national and international learning opportunities. Students appreciate Pearson’s encouraging mentorship both online and in-person. Pearson constantly works to improve his knowledge on teaching, said one of his peers.


By Dana Edwards, (352) 294-7995,

The College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) administers the degree programs of the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS). The mission of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences is to deliver unsurpassed educational programs that prepare students to address the world’s critical challenges related to agriculture, food systems, human wellbeing, natural resources and sustainable communities. Visit the CALS website at, and follow CALS on social media platforms at @ufcals.