In recognition of Teacher Appreciation Week, several of our seasoned experts reminisce about the impact of teachers and influencers in their academic efforts and their career.
A Foundation for Learning. By Ignacio Colonna
Wednesday, May 6, 2020. Teacher Appreciation Week.
I decided I wanted to become an agronomist when I was six years old. My friend Juan Pablo would take me to his family farm, a large livestock production ranch in central Buenos Aires.
We would herd cattle with our Percheron horses and felt like real gauchos.
The actual discovery and passion for the scientific side of agriculture came during my student assistantship at the Plant Ecology group in the Agronomy Department at University of Buenos Aires. I applied for the TA right after taking the Ecology course and, luck had it, there was an available spot to work under the guidance of Alberto Soriano, the founder of the Ecology Research Institute and a pioneer in the study of the ecology of semiarid grasslands in Patagonia. The teaching environment in this group was very motivating. I never felt lectured by the professors.
Rather, they challenged me to discover the answers to my key questions, or to raise questions in the scientific papers presented during the weekly seminars, where both junior students and senior researchers were treated with the same respect.
The attitude by professors in this team strongly shaped my professional career in applied ag research. Throughout my career I seek to be objective and maintain a healthy skepticism toward new theories and technologies.
To teach and mentor is an amazing calling. By Luke Samuel, Ph.D.
Tuesday, May 5, 2020. Teacher Appreciation Week.
My curiosity for nature and my eagerness to learn began as a child. My father, a veterinarian, and my mother, a teacher, encouraged me to ask questions and explore on our family farm outside of Fargo, ND. In high school, my teachers Jim Papacek and Dale Hertel formally introduced me to science and ignited a fire to learn, know, and understand the natural world.
I followed my passion to North Dakota State University, where my mentors Gary Clamby, Don Kirby, and Rod Lym, spent countless hours helping me achieve my goals and attain my Ph.D. in Natural Resources Management. I have many fond (and some not so fond) memories of working closely with these and many others. What I appreciate most is them sharing their time.
They taught me to keep exploring, evaluating alternatives, and the value of simplicity in research. They also taught me to differentiate between what is known and what is perceived. Today these lessons still apply.
I’ve stayed in touch with my teachers and mentors over the years. I am proud to call them all friends. To teach and mentor is truly an amazing calling. I’m grateful for the wisdom and influence they have had over my life. My wife, Janelle, is a teacher, and I’m lucky to have a partner dedicated to teaching our four children alongside me.
To all the teachers out there, thank you for your dedication to inspiring the next generation of leaders and innovators.
Knowledge Drives Progress. By Gloverson Moro, Ph.D.
Monday, May 4, 2020. Teacher Appreciation Week.
Science was something that I enjoyed from a very young age. Today I am still motivated to understand the underlying principles of how things work. During my undergraduate years, I got involved with the scientific side of the profession I chose, which is agronomy. Close to my graduation, Dr. Aloizio Borem encouraged me to pursue a master’s degree, since I had the right profile.
From him I learned you should focus on your strengths.
My MS professor, Dr. Mucio Reis was a busy person, but when he was with me, he would give me his undivided attention.
From him, I learned you should focus on what you are doing.
Also, during my MS course, Dr. Luiz Carlos Nasser, a scientist at the Brazilian Agricultural Department, introduced me to people in the scientific community.
From him I learned that relationships are important in building knowledge and finding new opportunities.
After completing my Master’s degree I started working at a State Agricultural Department in Brazil. There I met Dr. Richard Bacha, a much older and experienced colleague. One day he asked, ‘what are you doing here?’ He told me “You can do so much more. Move on”..”
From him I learned that too much comfort can limit you.
Sometime later, I left that job to pursue my PhD in the states and met Dr. Brian Larkins, my Ph.D. professor at the University of Arizona. A true and accomplished scientist, he was someone who pursued goals relentlessly. But he was always ready to help.
From him I learned that achievement does not preclude humanity.
I am very grateful to those people. Looking back today, I must say that I am happy with the choices I made and how my career has developed. I have been able to know a lot of smart people all over the world, lived and experienced different places.