Designing a Great Partnership

Mary Decker joins CAFNR to aid with instructional design

Portrait of Mary DeckerMary Decker is CAFNR’s new instructional designer.

Mary Decker is excited for her new role in CAFNR – what she explains as getting to create “cool partnerships” with professors.

Mary is CAFNR’s new instructional designer, which means she helps professors make their courses as high quality as possible both for physical and online classrooms, pairing their subject knowledge and her pedagogical knowledge.

This is Mary’s first position in instructional design, but it seems her entire career has been leading her to this point. She taught elementary school – mostly fourth grade – for 10 years before staying home with her kids for four years. While she was home, a professor she knew contacted her to help coordinate an NIH grant focused on reading intervention for struggling middle school students.

“I got the research bug and went to graduate school,” she says. “I realized I loved teaching – so this position is perfect.”

She received her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from the MU Department of Education and is finishing her Ph.D. from the Department of Special Education – she is in the process of writing her dissertation. Mary has taught undergraduate courses in the College of Education including Introduction to Special Education, Science and Social Studies for the Struggling Learner, as well as giving many guest lectures – 17 just last year – about assistive technology.

When she saw the open position here in CAFNR, she knew she needed to apply. She’d already had a taste of the CAFNR culture through her husband, Animal Sciences Associate Professor Jared Decker.

“Everyone here is so nice!” she says. “That was a big draw.”

She says she has enjoyed her time here so far (she joined CAFNR July 23) – she loves the diversity of her days. She gets to talk to people about so many different subject areas – from sports to bioengineering – she says.

Mary is available to work with all CAFNR faculty members in a variety of areas, including:

  • Taking a current face-to-face class into the online environment
  • Trying new things in the classroom to engage students
  • Accessing students differently
  • Helping identify and mitigate potential problem areas in online courses
  • Implementing technology in your teaching

Although Mary can’t likely help directly with technical questions/problems that come up in face-to-face or online classrooms, she should be able to figure out who can help – so feel free to contact her for these types of questions as well.

“At MU, we have so much technology available for us to use in teaching. However, it is important for us to use it in ways that actually enhance student learning rather than using it just because it is the newest thing,” said Shari Freyermuth, assistant dean of academic programs and director of student services. “Mary’s background in education is a great help in tackling difficult teaching challenges, designing or redesigning courses, and implementing technology in a pedagogically sound manner. We are very happy to have her skill set to assist our faculty to become even more excellent in teaching.”

Email — — is the best way to reach Mary, as she has two offices – one in the Heinkel Building since she is also part of Mizzou’s Educational Technologies department (ET@MO), and one in 1-98 Ag Building. You are also welcome to stop by her Ag Building space, which is in the southwest corner of the basement, during her weekly office hours: Mondays from 8 a.m. to noon, and Fridays from 1-3 p.m. But, if these times don’t work, she is happy to meet by appointment.

Although her days now don’t much resemble her time in the fourth-grade classroom, she says some things actually haven’t changed that much.

“Somehow, fourth graders and college students really aren’t that different,” she says with a laugh.