Faculty Focus, Prof. Dale Ledford
Assistant Professor, Biology.
East Tennessee State University, Bachelor of Science & Master of Science.
Northeast State alumnus. Friend to animals.
What is your background and how did it lead you to Northeast State?
I was diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome and ADHD. When I was in second grade, a teacher at my school told my parents she thought I was retarded. That did not over well with my parents especially my dad. I had to make some adjustments but after that things changed for the better. I stayed on the honor roll throughout elementary school. High school was, again, another time of adjustment. I had some great teachers but also some very negative experiences with teachers. I had a hard time with algebra and didn’t believe I could do it. When I was a student at Northeast State I stepped into Prof. Kim Nunn’s class and realized I could do it. I did well here at Northeast State. I later transferred and earned my bachelor’s degree in Biology from East Tennessee State University. I earned my master’s degree with a professor who said I needed to come to Northeast State to teach. He really pushed me to come here.
What are students seeking to achieve when they take a biology class?
Most are not biology majors. We have students looking at nursing, pharmacy school, and biology is a class they need to fulfill that goal. I think students have had some bad experiences with biology in the past. I want to show them that it is doable and break down those fears. Several of our local high schools are doing a fantastic job of preparing their students for college-level biology. I hope students see their own growth beyond my class and into the next class and into their careers.
What sparked your interest in biology?
In my general biology class, I didn’t know how anyone couldn’t find this stuff cool. It was so fascinating. I grew up in a rural part of Washington County so there were a lot of woods and wilderness to explore as a kid. I spent a lot of time outdoors and would try little experiments. My dad taught me to identify trees of all kinds. I had this slew of creatures that became pets from frogs and tadpoles to brown racer snakes and salamanders. We even had a flying squirrel who got into our house. I released all of them back into the wild. I didn’t understand how anyone couldn’t be fascinated with it.
What appealed to you about Northeast State?
I had a perspective being here as a former student and graduate. I clearly knew the environment. I knew the faculty was serious about learning. I also knew there was a commitment to quality we have from a lot of people. I knew how former professors kept you from giving up and kept you going. A lot of students are looking for an opportunity to quit. Students that give up don’t give up for no reason. They quit because we quit.
What do you do away from work?
I still love being outdoors hiking and fishing. My wife and I enjoy cooking, hanging out with our dogs, reading, and enjoying our downtime.
How does your experience in education influence your work with students today?
As an instructor, you set expectations for students and hold them to it. They won’t let you down. Beyond that, everything that happened to me told me I should give up and not try. I tell students now never let anyone who has no say in your future affect the direction you have in mind for your life.