A fun and winding path to becoming a community college teacher

Savanna Judson standing in front of a laptop and projector screenBy Whitney Baxter

Savanna Judson will graduate this spring semester with a master’s degree in agricultural education. She has taken a bit of a winding pathway to becoming a community college instructor, but she has enjoyed the journey.

After earning her bachelor’s degree in environmental science from Buena Vista University in Storm Lake, Iowa, Judson spent a couple years working for SOAR (Saving Our Avian Resources) in western Iowa doing public programming and public speaking. During this time, she realized she enjoyed teaching and wanted to pursue a career in education.

Judson decided teaching at the community college level, rather than at a university, would be best since community colleges do not require faculty to conduct research as part of their appointment. She knew she wanted to teach microbiology or biology, but a graduate degree in those areas of study would not necessarily provide the teaching experience she needed. So, she looked into Iowa State University’s agricultural education graduate program and found it would be a good fit.

“The master of science program in agricultural education allows for flexibility with a student being able to take elective courses to tailor to their interest area and needs,” said Scott Smalley, associate professor of agricultural education and studies and one of Judson’s mentor. “Savanna has been able to take classes on microbiology and immunology with a focus on teaching at a community college.”

Nick Peters, assistant professor of plant pathology and microbiology, was another of Judson’s mentors during her master’s program. Judson spent this past academic year assisting in his Microbiology 201 class, first helping him incorporate active learning into the curriculum, then leading an immunology unit.

“He has been great and very accepting of what I want to do,” Judson said. “He’s gone above-and-beyond to help me gain teaching experience.”

Peters said he has appreciated Judson’s “go getter” attitude and the new ideas she has brought to the class.

“It was inspiring to me after teaching the class for so many semesters to see her enthusiasm for getting others excited about microbiology,” Peters said. “It makes me happy to see other people just as interested in microbiology as I am.”

Peters also helped Judson set up two seminars she taught for undergraduate Honors Program students – one last fall about vaccines and another this spring on infectious diseases. He walked her through backwards design – the process of determining the learning objectives of a course first, then developing the core content for each of the learning modules. A practice she will implement in her career as an educator.

“It has been a huge experience working with students, putting together content and designing a syllabus, all for a fun, supplemental course,” Judson said. “It will be a nice transition to teaching a full class.”

Following graduation, Judson’s immediate plans are to participate in the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon, winding her way through the streets of Green Bay, Wisconsin, as well as a lap through Lambeau Field, on May 15. Then she’ll finalize lesson plans for a summer semester course she’ll be teaching at Des Moines Area Community College’s Carroll, Iowa, campus.