Dr. Gayle Brown
Photo: Christopher Gannon

AAVMC Distinguished Teacher

Dr. Gayle Brown has several teaching philosophies. Chief among them – the value of a candy bar.

Brown is known for frequently distributing candy in her classes. And not just any candy, but the good stuff like Snickers, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Skittles. Friday is a popular day for celebrating. She says the mere thought of candy has motivated students to attend her class.

“I had a student say she thought about skipping class but changed her mind when she thought I might hand out candy that day in class,” Brown said. “Comments such as that led me to conclude it is not just candy – it is a way of communicating to the students that I care about them. That I understand what they are doing is not easy and that I want to help them be successful.”

While candy may have had some motivating factor, it would be unwise to say that is the only reason for the impact Gayle Brown has had in the classroom. That impact was validated this year when the senior lecturer in the College of Veterinary Medicine was named the national recipient of the 2018 Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) Distinguished Teacher Award, presented by Zoetis.

Brown, who received her award during the annual AAVMC conference in March, is the second College of Veterinary Medicine faculty member to be so honored. Dr. Holly Bender, Morrill Professor in veterinary pathology, was recognized in 2004.

The award recognizes excellence in professional veterinary medical education and is presented to an educator whose sustained record of teaching excellence and ability, dedication, character and leadership has contributed significantly to the advancement of the profession.

At Iowa State, Brown teaches immunology, emerging and exotic diseases of animals, and microbiology laboratory. She has been a veterinary specialist in the Center for Food Security and Public Health since 2002 where she works on the Exotic Diseases of Animals/Initial Accreditation Training (EEDA/IAT) online course used in some form by all veterinary medical college’s in the United States.

Brown first entered a classroom as an instructor while a graduate student with Dr. Jim Roth, Distinguished Professor of veterinary microbiology and preventive medicine. She gives credit to her mentor for “teaching her how to teach” and the pair have developed into an excellent teaching team with additional teaching instruction from the colleges instruction specialists.

Brown found she enjoyed teaching. She started volunteering in the microbiology lab and soon acquired other teaching responsibilities. All the while, she looked back to her own experiences.

“When I was in veterinary school, many of my basic science teachers were not passionate about teaching and didn’t get us excited about developing this very important fundamental knowledge,” she said. “For example, I didn’t have an instructor who showed us how immunology would help us as veterinarians in our careers.

“I want to have students embrace what they are learning and not just get through a course but establish a basic foundation in the sciences. I want to provide students with the best opportunity to learn and grow and develop confidence in their veterinary knowledge.”

While Brown was recognized with the AAVMC award, she prefers team teaching saying “a big part of my success as a teacher is working with others.”

Since she first started teaching, Brown has stepped in front of countless classrooms. Despite that, she has thoughts on the way to class, “who am I to get to be doing what I am doing” but she says, “I give it my best and am thankful for the opportunity.”

Obviously, ISU veterinary students feel Brown is making a positive impact on their veterinary education. Nominees for the AAVMC award comes from the students from each veterinary college. And it shouldn’t be a surprise what happened when Brown was recognized by the Iowa State students for this honor.

Snickers, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Skittles were handed out at the announcement.