April 27, 2012

Wakefield earns recognition for teaching efforts

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A faculty member in the College of Agricultural Sciences at Southern Illinois University Carbondale recently received an honor for his teaching efforts from a national organization that promotes agriculture education.

Dexter B. Wakefield, associate professor in the plant, soil and agricultural systems department, received the Outstanding Contribution Award from the National Teach Ag Campaign and the National Future Farmers of America organization March 29at the Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences conference in Atlanta.  The award recognizes individuals who have had a tremendous impact on the agricultural education profession through service, mentorship, and leadership. 

The National Teach Ag Campaign is an initiative of the National Council for Agricultural Education, which is led by the National Association of Agricultural Educators.  The CHS Foundation and Landmark Nurseries provide funding as a special project of the National FFA Foundation.  It is designed to raise awareness of career opportunities in agricultural education, encourage others to consider a career as an agriculture teacher and celebrate the positive contributions that agriculture teachers make in their schools and communities.

Two others were honored along with Wakefield. 

“Honoring these men is a great testament to the dedication that agricultural educators have for the profession,” said Ellen Thompson, National Teach Ag Campaign coordinator. 

“These men are great leaders and educators who have been planting the seeds for global success for generations.  They have invested in education and their reach stretches around the world,” said Erica Flores, National FFA Organization Diversity and Inclusion coordinator.

Wakefield, who focuses on academic advising and teaching graduate and undergraduate courses in teacher preparation, said the SIU Carbondale College of Agricultural Sciences focuses on students and that its faculty strive to be leaders in their fields.

“That's why our enrollment continues to increase,” Wakefield said. “My college offers me the freedom to make an impact. This award was based on research that made an impact across the nation.  I tell every new student who wants to teach, ‘If you can't help somebody, then your living is in vain.  Teaching and service is not for self.’”

The National FFA organization has more than 540,000 student members and almost 7,500 local FFA chapters in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Its mission is making a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education.

Wakefield said receiving the honor was bittersweet: Bitter because more needs to be done to bridge the gap between minorities and agriculture, and because his late father, who was an agriculture teacher, did not live to see his accomplishments.

“Sweet, because I see hope in the eyes of my colleagues, peers and students that there's a brighter day on the horizon, if you just believe that one person can make a difference.”