Iowa State Professor Awarded USDA Excellence in Teaching Award

Amy Kaleita
AMES, Iowa "“ Iowa State University faculty member Amy Kaleita has been awarded the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Agricultural Sciences Excellence in Teaching Award. The assistant professor in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences' agricultural and biosystems engineering department is one of two people to receive the national award in the new teacher category, which encompasses all food and agricultural disciplines. "Dr. Kaleita's national recognition is a testimony to her outstanding achievements in teaching and an indication of the college's emphasis on attracting faculty who are dedicated to teaching," said David Acker, the associate dean of academic and global programs in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. "Our hope is to continue to create an environment that recognizes teaching contributions of faculty like her." The award was given Nov. 11 at the National Awards Program for Excellence in College and University Teaching in the Food and Agricultural Sciences in New York City. The award is based on teaching quality, philosophy, methodology, service to the profession and students as well as professional growth and development and the endorsement of an administrator, alumnus and colleague. Kaleita said her teaching philosophy is one in which facilitation fosters students' critical thinking skills to excel in and beyond the classroom. "What students really need to be, by the time they graduate, are adaptive self-learners. So that when they are tossed into a new environment, they can piece together the information they need to be successful," Keleita said. "As a professor, I am less interested in the answer but rather the process the student goes through to reach the outcome." Kaleita said she chose teaching as a profession because it provided a multitude of experiences. "I wanted a job that was going to have a lot of moving parts. Faculty positions wear a lot of hats, they teach, participate in outreach, conduct research, sit on committees and are able to interchange these activities to create a fulfilling career," she said. She is interested in her students in and outside of the classroom, according to Acker. She advises the Engineering Honor Society, Tau Beta Pi, and a Greek fraternity. Kaleita also mentors undergraduate researchers, is an advisor to graduate students, teaches courses and conducts research in the area of information technology for precision farming. Kaleita earned master's and doctorate degrees in civil engineering and agricultural engineering, respectively, in 1999 and 2003 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her bachelor's degree was in agricultural engineering from The Pennsylvania State University in 1997.