This award recognizes an APS member for excellence in teaching plant pathology. Preference is given to active teachers with responsibility for one or more courses in plant pathology.
Leonor F. S. Leandro was born in Lisbon, Portugal. She earned a B.S. degree in agricultural science from the Technical University of Lisbon in 1996, an M.S. degree in environmental science in 1997 from the University of Nottingham, U.K., and a Ph.D. degree in plant pathology in 2002 from Iowa State University (ISU). After a postdoc at North Carolina State University, she joined the faculty in the Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology at ISU, where she is currently a professor. Leandro has earned a glowing reputation as a teacher in 16 years on the ISU faculty. Students and peer evaluators praise her engaging pedagogy and integration of active-learning approaches into her undergraduate course Principles of Mycology (Micro 456), which emphasizes plant pathogens. Leandro has received similarly enthusiastic responses in her graduate-level classes on Professional Presentation Skills (PLP 628) and the Responsible Conduct of Research (GR ST 565).
Leandro has been teaching Principles of Mycology every fall since 2006. She has transformed this course into a highly sought-after course in ISU’s microbiology curriculum, attracting students from a variety of majors, including biology, agronomy, genetics, and animal ecology. Most enrollees started off knowing little about fungi, but they consistently state in their evaluations that it was among their most inspiring classroom experiences and that Leandro was among their favorite instructors. One wrote that “Dr. Leandro did a wonderful job incorporating realistic applications of fungi so that the learning could be applied to daily life.” A peer evaluator noted, “The hour that I joined her class was infused with creativity and energy.” With learning outcomes as her compass, Leandro champions student-centered teaching innovations. She helped infuse team-based learning (TBL) into ISU’s microbiology curriculum, adopting diverse activities that ensure student accountability. One peer evaluator noted her “highly student-centered…and super-engaging” teaching style. Two others stated that she inspired them to adopt TBL techniques in their own courses; one noted, “I could not imagine an environment better structured for learning mycology.” Enrollments and student ratings in Leandro’s course consistently outpace comparable ISU microbiology courses. But, numbers don’t capture Leandro’s ability to forge connections with students. A former teaching assistant stated, “I greatly admire Leonor’s talent at creating and maintaining enthusiasm in the classroom…she teaches with a genuine joy and love of the material.” She flexes seamlessly from mini-lectures to think-pair-share to individual and shared quizzes in response to students’ body language and facial expressions. Representative student comments: “The learning environment was perfect…she is a phenomenal teacher who cares about student learning and is always willing to learn herself…I love this course!" "Dr. Leandro is passionate about mycology and about helping students!" "She is calm, understanding, and truly cares that her students are learning useful information." "I loved being in this class and am sad to see it come to an end.”
In the Professional Presentation Skills course, Leandro has been passionately committed to helping graduate students become more engaging speakers. Leandro devotes many hours to providing one-on-one coaching of students to foster clear and effective speaking skills. Student evaluations are consistently enthusiastic and often highlight Leandro’s warm, incisive coaching style.
Leandro has taught the course Responsible Conduct of Research annually since 2010. The course focuses on research ethics and responsible research and covers topics ranging from plagiarism and data fabrication to authorship practices and mentoring. Effective teaching in this course requires strong student participation in self-reflective discussion.
Beyond the classroom, Leandro has served as major professor for 13 graduate students, a graduate advisory committee member for an additional 38 students, and a supervisor for 5 postdoctoral researchers. She has also mentored 5 students in ISU’s Preparing Future Faculty program, 5 research interns from South America, 3 high school teacher interns, and 10 undergraduate students in research projects. As evidence of her mentoring success, all of her graduate advisees were authors on at least one, and often many, publications with her. The majority of her undergraduate research mentees gave presentations at symposia or were coauthors on papers. Her mentees are currently professors at universities in California, Portugal, and Brazil; research scientists in government labs and three major agricultural companies; and a farmer, with many currently pursuing further professional development.
Leandro has also shared her teaching talents with APS. She co-instructed the first semester-long, APS hosted online course in fall 2021. This discussion course in Research Ethics received a warm response from the 27 graduate students, postdocs, faculty, and industry professionals who participated in it from around the world. During her terms as associate editor and senior editor for Plant Disease, Leandro mentored many manuscript authors. A hallmark of her editorial service was her ability to blend her critiques with empathy and kindness, as in her classroom teaching.
Leonor Leandro puts her heart and soul into every aspect of her teaching. She has a stellar reputation as an early and highly successful adopter of innovative, student=centered pedagogy and is inspiring others to follow in her footsteps. She is passionate about reaching all of her students during every class period, and her students reflect her passion with exceptional engagement and enthusiasm. She is also passionate about mentoring her trainees, and her effectiveness is clear in their subsequent professional success. At ISU, many students have commented that her classes are among their most treasured experiences. A peer evaluator put it best: “She is a gem of a teacher.” She richly deserves recognition by APS with the Excellence in Teaching Award.