“I believe that
agricultural education and FFA are relevant for all students because the
food and fiber system is necessary for life.”
This is the beginning statement of Mr. Dennis Digenan’s teaching
continues with, “All students need leadership and personal growth skills
in order to have successful careers…”
FFA leadership and SAE programs are a viable part of the Silver
Sage FFA Chapter. Instruction
in Digenan’s program is “hands-on” with an emphasis on applied
learning and reasoning skills.
incorporates this philosophy into his everyday teaching at Spring Creek
High School located in Spring Creek, Nevada.
Eight years ago the school district transferred him from Wells High
School and gave him the challenge of starting a new chapter at a new high
school opening with freshmen and sophomores.
Digenan rose to the
challenge and created the largest chapter in Nevada for the past four
years. The Silver Sage FFA
Chapter is also the largest student organization at Spring Creek High
School. Most of the students
in the school district do not have an agriculture background.
However, the program still grew from 25 students in 1993 to 283
students in 2001. In 1998,
Spring Creek hired a second agricultural education teacher, Mr. Gary
Sundseth, and expanded the curriculum.
Digenan promotes new
technologies in agriculture that relate to the West and utilize Ad Ed net
and the Internet for current information.
He also subscribes to a wide variety of magazines to provide
current ideas and values. The
agriculture students have computer access that allows them to keep track
of their records, build portfolios; complete speeches assemble reports and
develop marketing proposals.
Education program wrote a partnership grant with Briggs and Stratton to
serve as a dealership. This allows the school-based enterprise, Spartan
Welding, to stay current on small engine updates and technical support.
The grant also provided computer software, which trains students to sue
electronic parts, catalogs and business software.
The program was recognized nationally as a winner of the Region I
Ideas Unlimited contest in 1997. Students
operate the welding shop as a for profit business with all profits going
to improve the facility. Spartan
Welding fabricates and repairs all types of machinery for students, the
school and members of the community. This practical, hands-on experience
assisted sixteen welding students to earn Manpower Training Cooperative
Scholarships in the amount of $50,000.
Another grant in 1998
allowed the program to build a state of the art greenhouse facility. This
grant lead to the creation of another school-based enterprise, Spartan
Greenhouse. This business
allows students to grow and market approximately $10,000 worth of plants
Digenan utilizes field
trips whenever possible to take advantage of the expertise of
professionals in livestock production, greenhouse management and welding.
The Silver Sage FFA has
enjoyed 100% membership for the past five years.
The chapter is extremely successful.
The Silver Sage FFA is Nevada’s state winner in the National
Chapter Award for the past 6 years. Three
of the last four state presidents are from the Silver Sage Chapter.
In the state’s career development events, the chapter placed
first or second in 88 events. In
2001, 16 members were awarded $48,850 in scholarships.
The chapter is also
involved in the greater Elko community. The FFA provides labor for the
Cowboy Poetry Gathering, State Trap & Skeet Shoot, Elko County Fair,
Nevada Ram Sale, Elko County 4-H, Ag in the classroom, conservation
plantings and Nevada Division of Forestry.
process is an ongoing one. Instructors,
parents, advisory board members promote the program through word of mouth
at civic organizations and casual conversation.
Digenan makes regular
project visits with members and their parents to provide assistance and
hear feedback. Spartan Welding displays many of their projects at the Spring
Creek High School open house and Spartan Greenhouse markets plants to the
community. Exemplary portions
of the program are featured in newspaper articles, radio and television
programs, the monthly school newsletter, and reports to the administration
and school board.
Furthermore, the chapter
reporter publishes a monthly newsletter informing parents of upcoming
events and opportunities.
Recruitment is the
lifeblood of the program and the Spring Creek agricultural education
program uses a very focused strategy to inform 8th graders and
their parents of the value of agriculture.
FFA members discuss the importance of agriculture, abundance of
jobs, leadership training financial opportunities and scholarships with
each 8th grade student. In addition, follow-up letters with National FFA brochures
are mailed to parents to further explain the program and opportunities.
The chapter uses a
multifaceted approach to marketing. Members
demonstrate what learn at civic clubs and elementary students through Ag
in the Classroom and Animal Awareness Days.
Chapter members also wear
FFA shirts to school on a regular basis, which reminds the student body
and faculty about FFA. The
chapter also purchases subscriptions to New Horizons for area realtors,
beauty shops and banks.
development is an important aspect of teaching agricultural education.
He added 10 new courses at Spring Creek. This led to curriculum
writing and expanding his knowledge base. He attended several professional
growth workshops including: Natural Resource/Range Management,
Biotechnology and Forward Pricing. He also attended specialty in services
each year in the areas of meat science, animal welfare and garlic
production, to name a few.
Digenan is also active in
the Nevada Vocational Teacher’s Association. He served as President,
President Elect and Vice President.
He was honored as the Nevada Teacher of the Year, Ideas Unlimited
winner and Nevada’s Outstanding Young Member award.
believes that “building an outstanding program is a never-ending
proposition due to the changing dynamics of students, parents, schools and
employers. To be truly
successful, I must constantly improve my knowledge and techniques to meet
the needs of our customer, the students.”