Teacher in Residence Program brings alumni back to the classroom

October 28th, 2020

A gift from Jane and Richard Carter has allowed the Department of Agricultural Education and Studies (AGEDS) to bring Iowa agricultural educators into Iowa State classrooms through the new Teacher in Residence Program. 

Richard Carter (’76 PhD ag and life sciences education), a former AGEDS faculty member, collaborated with the department to create a program allowing the selected educator to observe and teach AGEDS classes, mentor students and liaise with faculty and staff in the department.

“Our hope is these educators will provide our students a view of what happens in middle school and high school classrooms. We also want them to provide some thoughts on what we are doing well and how we might improve our teacher education program,” says Scott Smalley (’06 MS ag and life sciences education, ’11 PhD), associate professor in AGEDS.

Jacob Hunter ('11 ag and life sciences education), ag educator at North Scott Community Schools, leads a discussion in an AGEDS class.

On Oct. 21 -22, 2020, Jacob Hunter (’11 ag and life sciences education), ag educator and FFA advisor at North Scott Community Schools in Eldridge, Iowa, visited campus as the inaugural teacher in residence.

Hunter applied for the program this spring, and was selected by a panel of AGEDS students. He is a familiar face in Curtiss Hall, serving as a member of the college’s young alumni initiative, Curtiss League and encouraging his students to participate in FFA and World Food Prize events hosted on campus. In 2018 Hunter was honored with the college’s Emerging Iowa Leader Award.

“What a perfect time to have our inaugural Richard and Jane Carter Agriculture Teacher-in-Residence on campus to meet with students and discuss the value, importance and changes taking place in middle and high school agriculture programs,” says Mike Retallick (’05 PhD ag and life sciences education and professor and chair in AGEDS, “The impact from the Carters gift has already been felt through the linkages Jacob shared between his experiences as a teacher in the classroom and the preparation he had as a pre-service teacher in our program nearly 10 years ago.”

Now entering his fifth year teaching at North Scott Community Schools, Hunter’s program has grown from just 34 students in 2016 to more than 350 middle school and high school participants. This summer, the program was named one of the 2020 top ten programs in the nation and a finalist for the Model of Excellence Award by the National FFA Association.

“The success of this program wasn’t something I was able to do alone. We’ve had support from other teachers in the program, really amazing students, stakeholders and families. They’re all part of our educational ecosystem,” says Hunter.

AGEDS 116 students participated in a Q&A forum with Jacob Hunter, the inaugural educator selected for the Carter Teacher in Residence Program.

The North Scott agriculture program offers a variety of unique hands-on experiences for students. While the COVID-19 pandemic has required him to think about how to engage his students differently, some of the program’s opportunities, like farming approximately 60 acres, have continued with the inclusion of safety measures.

“Agriculture doesn’t stop because there is a pandemic. It goes back to the ideal of resiliency for our students. They’ve been amazing and have shown more resiliency than I have with this situation. It highlights the grit they’ll need to be successful in whatever career pathway they choose.”

Hunter’s goal in participating in the Teacher in Residence Program is to provide support and mentorship to future Cyclone educators.

“I applied because I feel like there has been many people through the years who provided me support, and I want to be one of those people for Iowa State students. I want to help them realize what they are doing now will transfer to a real-life experience of being a teacher. You have a lot of options when you leave college with an ag education degree. I want students to see that education is something that’s valuable they can make a career of,” says Hunter.