Meet Darrell Bley, the Outstanding Educator of the Year

By Jill Odom

DARRELL BLEY, CURATOR AND HORTICULTURE instructor at the Niagara Parks School of Horticulture, received more than 16 letters of recommendation from former students, colleagues, and industry leaders for the title of Outstanding Educator of the Year for 2020.

In those letters, there were many

reoccurring statements, including the fact Bley is the first to arrive on campus and the last to leave, that he is committed to leading extra-curricu- lar activities and that he cares deeply about his students. Bley is character- ized as kind, patient, dedicated and the students’ biggest supporter. “My class, the class of 2020, was truly brought closer together be- cause of Darrell,” one letter of recommen- dation reads. “He has put in hours well

above and beyond his contract to: help us study, help us plan our annual study tours (three in total) and with planning fun activities for the school community like the school musical band and the NCLC competition.”

Bley has been described as “the educator you always wanted, and after dozens of teachers coming and going you never thought would actually exist.” He makes a point to continue to learn for himself. If there is any question a student asks that he does not have the answer to, he will respond “Let me look into it” followed by a well-researched response a few days later. “Darrell Bley is the true embodiment of what it means to be an instruc- tor,” another letter reads. “He has an unbelievable amount of passion for sharing what he knows


I grew up in a rural area and I grew up with working on a farm for vegetable production. We did greenhouses and annual bedding and cut flowers so I always interested in that aspect of growing plants and so forth. Now I think horticulture just kind of came along for the ride and I started to go outside of working on the farm and looking for summer work.

HOW DID YOU END UP AN EDUCATOR YOURSELF? When I left school, I had my own company, and I was on the Faculty Advisory Committee for Niagara College where I’d gone to school. And I returned home one evening and my wife had talked to the program coordinator and they needed a teacher for soils. So, she said, “Darrell would love to teach.”

and wants to help you to know what he knows. I have the utmost respect for this man, and always will, and I believe that every person at my school, will stand behind that statement.” While this award is traditionally presented at the National Collegiate Landscape Competition, due to the pandemic Bley’s recognition was delayed. He was recently presented his award in an outside ceremony attended by students and staff. NALP caught up with Bley to learn more about his career.

36 The Landscape Professional //September/October 2020

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