GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences faculty and staff members honored as teachers and advisers of the year use innovative methods to get the best from students.
“Promoting excellence in teaching is one of the highest priorities for CALS,” said CALS Dean Elaine Turner. “These outstanding teachers and advisers find creative ways to engage students and inspire success. We are proud to recognize them with CALS awards.”
College Associate Dean Allen Wysocki announced the following winners of the CALS Teaching/Advising/Mentoring Awards and a CALS recipient of a university award:
CALS Undergraduate Teacher of the Year Awards:
Jennifer Drew, associate scientist – microbiology and cell science.
Drew taught the first online course in the department. She was also one of the key developers of the department’s distance education undergraduate degree program, which has increased diversity and participation in science, technology, engineering and math programs. Drew also developed a non-majors course called “Exploring Your Genome,” and volunteered to teach the “Introduction to Genetics and Genomics in Health Care” course that is required for nursing students.
- Brantlee Spakes-Richter, lecturer – plant pathology.
- Spakes-Richter likens the educational experience to an expedition in which the students are explorers and the instructor is a skilled guide and team leader who must try to find ways to get the best out of a group of travelers with diverse backgrounds and talents. Her course, “Fungus Among Us,” introduces students to the role of fungi in food, clothing, medicine and other everyday items.
CALS Undergraduate Faculty Adviser/Mentor of the Year Award:
- Andrew Thoron, assistant professor – agricultural education and communication.
- A former high school agriscience teacher himself, Thoron guides students through the department’s undergraduate agriscience teacher preparation program. But he doesn’t just advise students on curriculum. He encourages them to participate in their learning and become life-long learners so that they will have the tools to excel in their professional careers.
CALS Undergraduate Professional Staff Adviser of the Year Award:
- Kathryn Ivey, academic coordinator – family, youth and community sciences.
- Ivey tries to schedule as many walk-in hours as possible during the week. She also tries not to make anyone wait longer than 10 minutes to see her, although if a student needs extra time she is happy to give it. One of Ivey’s initiatives was to create a display of business cards from graduates of the program so current students could see the range of possible career opportunities.
CALS Graduate Teacher/Adviser of the Year Award:
- Rob Fletcher, associate professor – wildlife ecology and conservation.
- Fletcher emphasizes critical thinking and communication skills and employs multiple strategies to develop his students’ skills in those areas. Those methods include problem-solving and inquiry-based approaches in teaching. Fletcher also requires students to present an aspect of their thesis or dissertation work and to develop “power talks” for their research during his weekly lab meetings.
UF Doctoral Dissertation Advisor/Mentoring Award
- Matias Kirst, professor in the School of Forest Resources and Conservation.
- Among the many accolades in Kirst’s nomination packet for this award is a letter of recommendation from doctoral candidate Annette Fahrenkrog. In her letter, she said: “More than ever, I appreciate the fact that he is always available for his students, despite his busy schedule. Every time I have sent him part of my (dissertation) manuscript for review, he has returned it to me with corrections, comments and suggestions within just a few days.”
Kirst’s award will be presented at a university ceremony on April 4. The other winners will be recognized at the April 14 CALS Scholarship and Leadership Awards Banquet.
By: Brad Buck, 352-294-3303, firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: Elaine Turner, 352-392-1961, email@example.com