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Past Winners of the Teacher of the Week

David Schmale


The Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research (CIDER) recognizes David Schmale, associate professor of Plant Pathology, Physiology and Weed Science, for teaching where the students live, taking the students on an adventure, engaging the students in his science, and feeding the students fungal knowledge.

Dr. Schmale teaches to engage, educate, and train the next generation of scientists and engineers in agriculture and life sciences. His teaching philosophy is simple: make it relevant, make it interesting, and make it memorable. Students live in a wireless world where online entertainment is just a click away. Computers, iPods, and smartphones provide a real-time connection to this online world, and he teaches by bringing this world into the classroom. His lectures incorporate YouTube movies, news reports, music, GoogleEarth, and Facebook. He strives to bring his lab into the classroom, exciting and engaging students through the research that defines him as a scientist. Students take a virtual ride on one of his unmanned aerial vehicles. They get their hands on living cultures of pathogens that cause devastating plant diseases. Small groups of students grow edible varieties of mushrooms at home. These experiences serve as important examples of research opportunities at Virginia Tech, and direct students to employment opportunities in agriculture and human health.

Dr. Schmale teaches three courses at Virginia Tech: PPWS 2004 (Mysterious Mushrooms, Malicious Molds), PPWS 5054 (Plant Pathogenic Agents; team-taught), and PPWS 4114 (Microbial Forensics and Biosecurity; team-taught). PPWS 2004 is a University Core Curriculum Area VII course for undergraduates. Over 450 students have taken PPWS 2004 to date, exposing them to the important discipline of Mycology—the study of fungi—and its impact on human affairs.

Dr. Schmale received the 2010 Sporn Award for Undergraduate Teaching Excellence in Introductory Subjects at Virginia Tech, and was inducted into the Virginia Tech Academy of Teaching Excellence that same year. He was honored as a ‘Favorite Faculty’ in 2010 through Office of Residence Life at Virginia Tech. In 2007, he gave the Magnitude in Science Annual Lecture at the Central Virginia Governor’s School in Lynchburg, VA.

Selected quotes from previous students:

“His teaching is absolutely captivating, catchy, and memorable. Today I actually told a story to my roommate that Dr. Schmale shared with our class a year ago. I kept every single page of notes, didn't miss a single class, enjoyed our text, and loved his teaching style. He is more of an interpretive teacher; he showed us how to appreciate something we otherwise probably wouldn't.”

“Dr. Schmale always found a way to tie in his own experiences from his travels and research with his lectures. I really liked this about Dr. Schmale because this approach to his lectures gave us a connection to him as not just another professor, but as a person as well. He insisted that we use our time at college to pursue our passions, take interesting classes, and to travel and explore. He was unfailingly encouraging in this aspect. Dr. Schmale brought in world events from the past, present, and those in the making to his class. He did this to make us aware of the role mushrooms have played from the time of dinosaurs to his research on crop failures resulting from the spread of new strains of pathogenic fungi. The special project for the class, growing our own mushroom kits, was something new and fun to show us the life cycle of fungi and how tasty they can be.”

“He takes a class where you learn about mushrooms, fungi and mold and turns it into a class that talks about Barbaro (horse racing) to the making of french fries to global warming! Professor Schmale cared. He cared about the information he was teaching. Most importantly, he got students to care about what he was teaching. I remember the day he taught a lecture on Hurricane Katrina. I guarantee you in a class of over a hundred, no one whispered a sound. Dr. Schmale is a passionate, devoted and inspiring professor. I think inspiration is a major strength of his. Many times my professors teach from the start of class to the finish. Hardly ever do are they able to give real-life examples of what they're talking about. Dr. Schmale does it in an inspiring way. We had educational videos, we watched part of Lion King once, we had interesting pictures and once a Johny cash song, all of which were related to the fungal material we were studying of course! Dr. Schmale made us laugh, he made us interact with him, he made us care and most of all he allowed us to learn through his powerpoints.”


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