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AMES, Iowa -- An Iowa State University faculty member has been awarded the annual USDA Food and Agricultural Sciences Excellence in Teaching Award. Gail Nonnecke, a horticulture professor, is one of only two people to receive the national award, which encompasses all the food and agricultural disciplines.
Nonnecke said her teaching philosophy and methods revolve around the student. She believes in going beyond testing memorization and encourages students to understand the subject matter.
"I believe students need to be involved beyond the role of a 'passive-learner' sitting at a desk, taking notes and simply providing memorized facts on exams," Nonnecke said. "I continually include and seek new ways to engage students in active learning."
Nonnecke received the award on Nov. 11 in Houston. The award is based on teaching quality, philosophy, methodology and service to the profession and students as well as professional growth and development and the endorsement of an administrator, colleague and alumnus.
Nonnecke's dedication to teaching and learning goes beyond her students and includes her peers. She serves as a mentor for recently hired assistant professors at Iowa State and assists other faculty members.
Nonnecke also helped coordinate the development of the horticulture international travel course in 1998 to Scotland. The department still offers the course and has taken students to study abroad at several international locations.
David Acker, the College of Agriculture's associate dean of academic and global programs, voiced his endorsement of Nonnecke in the award nomination.
"We are proud of Dr. Nonnecke's contribution to the community of learners she interacts with, whether they are in Iowa, Africa or somewhere on the study abroad trips she leads in Europe and Latin America," Acker said.
Nonnecke received exemplary marks as an instructor and mentor from both students and peers. During her 20 years of service she has advised undergraduate and graduate students and served as an adviser to the Ag Student Council, honors program in horticulture and other groups. Lisa Wasko, a senior in biology and horticulture at Iowa State, said Nonnecke has done more than numbers can show.
"She is an effective teacher and is genuinely interested in students," Wasko said. "She has been an extremely helpful and knowledgeable adviser, while I attempt to get degrees in both biology and horticulture."
Richard Schultz, a natural resource ecology and management professor at Iowa State, stated in a nomination letter that Nonnecke made a positive impression on her students.
"I have had numerous students from her department in my classes and have served on several of her graduate students' committees. The message is always the same. All of her students rank her as one of the best teachers they have ever had, not just in her department, but in all of the university," Schultz said.