Educating Those Who Seek To Teach

A growth in agricultural programs in Iowa high schools encourages Scott Smalley, who coordinates the teacher education programs in the Department of Agricultural Education and Studies as an assistant professor.

“Many of these schools will tell you, we want to teach leadership and that comes with FFA,” says Smalley (’11 Ph.D. agricultural education).

There are about 100 undergrads in the department’s teacher preparation program. Last spring, the department had 27 student teaching, more than the typical 20.

“I enjoy seeing students’ growth and development as they progress, watching them discover their passions and experience the excitement that comes with student teaching,” Smalley says. “Throughout our teacher preparation program, I hope students are able to learn agriculture content, pedagogy and become comfortable as an educator.”

It’s easy for Smalley to identify with his students. From the time he was a freshman in high school, he knew teaching ag was what he wanted to do. Growing up in Michigan he was involved in 4-H and FFA, which developed his “teaching mode.”

But when the ag teacher in his high school retired and the program was cut, Smalley had to adapt. As a senior, he watched VHS tapes sent from another school of the previous day’s class. It was his first taste of “distance education.”

After getting a bachelor’s degree in agricultural education at Michigan State University in 2001, he taught at the high school in Oelwein for six years. After earning a master’s, and while finishing his doctorate at Iowa State, he went to South Dakota State University for three years to coordinate its agricultural teacher preparation.

In 2016, Smalley returned to Iowa State to continue educating those who seek to teach. He also teaches an online graduate course called Adult Education in Agriculture, designed for those already in the classroom such as extension specialists and business people.

Mike Retallick (‘05 Ph.D. agriculture and life sciences education), chair of the agricultural education and studies department, calls Smalley a “dedicated faculty member who is committed to student success and the agricultural education profession, especially in Iowa.” He says students seek out Smalley as an adviser and major professor.

His performance has earned early accolades. This year he earned the college’s Early Achievement in Teaching Award, and was named a distance education teacher of the year in 2018 by the Brenton Center for Agricultural Instruction and Technology Transfer, an honor nominated by students.

Student nominators say Smalley does “a great job facilitating learning in an online environment” and that he has “provided prompt feedback and was always willing to answer questions and solve problems efficiently.”

Smalley also frequently advises practicing ag teachers – alumni and non-alumni alike. He says he’s happy to help anyone in the “tight-knit profession.”