College of Agriculture & Natural Resources
Institute of Applied Agriculture

Roy Walls Recognized by NAAE for Outstanding Service to Agricultural Education

Rob Ballenger
Roy Walls received his award at the annual NAAE convention in Las Vegas.

Early this month, instructor Roy Walls had what his Institute of Applied Agriculture (IAA) students could consider an excused absence that was more than four decades in the making. He was thousands of miles away from College Park, receiving national recognition for outstanding service to agricultural education.

The National Association of Agricultural Educators (NAAE) awarded an Outstanding Service Citation to Walls, who has been teaching at the IAA since 1990. The NAAE recognized the veteran instructor for his achievements at its annual convention, which met in Las Vegas. Walls was among this year’s recipients of the award; one is given to an outstanding educator in each of the organization’s six regions that span the country. (Walls’ citation is for Region VI, which covers the northeastern U.S. and some of the mid-Atlantic.) 

“Walls is a shining example for agricultural educators everywhere,” according to the NAAE. “His impact on students is immeasurable.” The timeline of those students stretches back to Walls’ first teaching position at Linganore High school in 1975. He began his current IAA position as Agricultural Mechanics Instructor fifteen years later. Walls’ courses include Fundamentals of Agricultural Mechanics, Landscape Construction, Computer Applications, Surveying & GPS Applications, and Power & Machinery.

The skills that Walls teaches in his courses have empowered generations of working professionals to maintain their agricultural equipment and facilities, to keep their operations running smoothly, and to trouble-shoot the unexpected outdoors as well as indoors. In Walls’ campus workshop, students have broadened their skill sets – from welding to hydraulics to GPS and beyond. Introducing IAA students to such unfamiliar and complicated skills can be challenging, but Walls goes the extra mile for his up-and-coming agricultural professionals. 

“Roy will help you do anything you ask of him,” says IAA student James Thomas. “Roy is a great hands-on teacher. He’ll help you learn until you feel comfortable with a certain task down in the shop.” Roy Walls says he gives one-on-one instruction (in addition to his regular group instruction) when a student has difficulty mastering a particular skill. Walls finds teachable moments, like when someone in his class struggles with electrical diagrams. “It’s abstract stuff, so I’ll draw a diagram on the blackboard and review steps that I’ve outlined,” according to Walls. “So many times I’ll get a puzzled look, so I ask myself, ‘How do I get my students to stretch and to experience this different world that makes electricity work?’” 

Walls’ success in teaching electrical, mechanical and computer skills is embodied in 26 years’ worth of IAA alumni who put those skills to work across myriad agricultural professions. That success is now similarly embodied in Walls’ new NAAE plaque, which will hang on his office wall in Jull Hall. To him the award symbolizes “hours and hours and hours of dedicated service, working behind the scenes to support the profession.” 

In the weeks before flying to Las Vegas to receive the citation, Walls did not reveal to his students why he was leaving town. However, the humble IAA instructor knew he’d eventually have to tell them about the distinguished award. “I’m sure my students will think it’s well deserved,” Walls conceded. “I work hard to try to make them successful.”

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