Inspiring teacher: David Rider, professor of entomology
Published January 2016
Rider is highly regarded as a scholar, researcher and mentor. For several years, he taught NDSU's undergraduate introductory entomology course and now focuses on graduate courses.
How did you decide to pursue your profession?
I just knew at an early age that I wanted to end up at a university where I could teach and conduct research. My position here at NDSU has provided me with the right balance between the two.
What do you like best about teaching?
I really like that moment when you see a student “get it” when they have been struggling with a difficult concept. I try to re-word things several times so they can understand the point (they might be frowning), and then all of a sudden, their face lights up and you know you got through to them.
How would you describe your teaching style?
I'm rather informal, especially now that all my courses are at the graduate level. I like to lecture, but I encourage questions at any time. I must admit that it is fairly easy to get me off topic answering questions. It's my responsibility to make the course as interesting as I can, so I relate personal stories and experiences as often as I can. That makes it more “real.”
How do you know you’ve succeeded with a student or a class?
I can usually tell how successful I have been by simply talking with each of the students to see how much of the information they have retained. Of course, you hope their scores on the exams will reflect their success also, but that isn’t always the case.
What has been the best moment of your teaching career so far?
I like hearing back from past students, especially some of my undergraduate students. I also try to keep track with my past graduate students, and it is gratifying to know that they have gotten jobs and are being successful. It is really nice to hear from a past undergraduate student that your course was of value to them, and that they have been successful after leaving NDSU.
What have you learned from your students?
I always say you learn more about your subject area as a teacher than you do as a student. You have to try to know the material well enough to answer questions, and some of the questions can really be “off the wall.” Students' questions have caused me to look up new information, and so I end up learning new things. Learning really is a never-ending endeavor.
What is something every student should experience before they graduate from NDSU?
I really think all students should live on campus for at least one year. There is so much to the college experience besides sitting in classrooms; they can get involved with clubs, activities and athletics. Students who try to get their degrees completely online are really missing out on some of the best things a university can offer.
What is your favorite NDSU tradition?
I really like NDSU football games, especially the show right before the game when the team enters the stadium.
Rider joined the NDSU faculty in 1991. He earned his bachelor's degree at Purdue University, master's degree from Auburn University and doctorate at Louisiana State University.