Enhancing teaching & learning

Story and image by Barb McBreen

Ann Marie VanDerZanden displays her grandmother’s eighth grade graduation certi cate on the wall behind her desk in Beardshear Hall.

Extension and education have been consistent and important in uences in her life.

Her father was a school principal and she became involved in 4-H in elementary school. She went on to work in the extension center in her hometown during high school.

“The thing that really interested me was talking to people and teaching people about horticulture, especially from the extension standpoint,” VanDerZanden says.

As the associate provost for academic programs, VanDerZanden determines how to ensure a strong learning environment for students at Iowa State University. She believes each component of the student experience, which includes clubs, extracurricular activities, studying abroad and internships, has an impact.

“When you put all these together it creates a robust experience for students and that’s a huge point of pride,” says VanDerZanden, who also is a Louis Thompson Distinguished Undergraduate Teacher and horticulture professor.

VanDerZanden coordinates academic programs, facilitates articulation agree- ments and leads efforts related to accreditation, academic quality, distance education and international programs.

“There are a lot of people on our campus approaching teaching in unique ways,” says VanDerZanden. “They are finding ways to use different technologies to bring new ideas to the classroom and get students engaged.”

VanDerZanden studies methods and technologies to enhance teaching and learning for both students and faculty. She has taught over 20 different courses.

Presenting students with real-life scenarios was one tool VanDerZanden used in her classes. Marcus Jansen, a May horticulture graduate, says solving those types of problems helped him learn how to work with clients, develop presentations and present budgets.

“She challenged us in different areas,” Jansen says. “What I like about her teaching style is that she treats you like a professional. She’ll give you the assignment and the resources to work with clients.”

Nicholas Paoli, a May horticulture graduate and project manager for A+ Lawn and Landscape in Des Moines, says VanDerZanden has a no-nonsense teaching style. He credits her constructive criticism and tell-it-like-it-is style for helping him grow and develop as a professional landscape designer.

“She truly changes the lives of her students for the better and develops them into strong young professionals ready for the real world,” Paoli says.

VanDerZanden began teaching at Iowa State in 2003. She moved to the Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching in 2009 where she served as associate director and director.

Her passion for teaching continues in her administrative role.

“Think about the amount of growth a student goes through from freshmen to senior year—not only at a personal level, but at an academic level and on a profes- sional level. It’s a very pivotal time in their life,” VanDerZanden says.

VanDerZanden received the Teaching Award of Excellence from the North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture 2016. In 2017, she received the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Excellence in College and University Teaching Award for Food and Agricultural Sciences.