Don Felder of Siloam Springs began his student teaching this fall.
Donaldson Scholarship Helps Poultry Executive Launch Second Career
Don Felder of Siloam Springs knew about halfway through his 31-year career in the poultry industry that he wanted to teach schoolchildren someday.
He enjoyed his work, and it included training other managers with more than 2,000 employees under them.
"The teaching was the part of the job I enjoyed most," explained Felder, who had advanced in the industry to a vice president's position. "I still had to meet goals and objectives, reach numbers to make the company more profitable, but those results come from people. I was able to teach people how to be good managers and to watch them grow."
But Felder wanted to work with children.
"For about the past 10 years, I have known I wanted to teach," he said. He volunteers at the Northwest Arkansas Children's Shelter and teaches a children's Sunday school class. He and his wife have a son serving in the Navy.
Now 54, the south Louisiana native is pursuing a Master of Arts in Teaching degree from the College of Education and Health Professions at the University of Arkansas, and he began a teaching internship this fall at Hellstern Middle School in Springdale. He was one of 18 M.A.T. students awarded a John H. and Jane W. Donaldson Endowed Memorial Scholarship for this academic year.
At a scholarship luncheon each spring, the Donaldsons' nephew, John Donaldson of Bentonville, tells the recipients about his uncle and aunt and their high regard for both education and the University of Arkansas.
"I think it is awesome that the Donaldsons gave this gift to education," Felder said. "Col. Donaldson had not spent his career in education, but it was important enough to him and his wife that they left their legacy to education."
Felder plans to teach social studies on the secondary level.
"I did my observation in the seventh grade at Owl Creek in Fayetteville, and I was really impressed with the enthusiasm and spirit of the students," he said.
After Hellstern, Felder will do rotations teaching social studies at Huntsville High School and Southwest Junior High School in Springdale. His mindset about what the job of a teacher entails changed tremendously after he began taking M.A.T. classes, he said.
"Before, I didn't realize the responsibility of getting students involved in the classroom and the community," he said. "That jumped out at me when I did my classroom observation. All students in the classroom need to be involved. I want to help make a difference for those students who are left out. I could easily have gone the wrong way when I was growing up, gotten lost in the shuffle. I think if I save just one kid from going down the wrong road, I will be a success, and I hope it will be a lot more kids."
Felder recalled being nervous about returning to college.
"I questioned whether I could cut it," he said. "I wasn't sure I had what it took at this age. I worked long hours in the chicken business. Long hours don't bother me but this is a different kind of work. Time management is crucial and I think my years of experience in the work force helped with that."
He also thought the younger students would treat him differently because he was older.
"I thought they would shy away from me. Instead, I found unbelievable support," he said. "I was surprised how open and friendly and accepting everyone has been. They have taken me under their wings because they know I haven't been around this environment and don't know all the ropes."The teachers are also great," he continued. "They are really dedicated to what they do, and they are good at what they do. They have a world of knowledge and they are concerned with teaching and with producing great teachers. I can't say enough good things about the M.A.T. program. This is where I need to be."