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Keith Gundlach’s career in agricultural education began in 1977 at Randolph High School. This was his first job and he reinstated agriculture and FFA after an eight year absence.
Randolph is a small community located 45 miles northeast of Madison and the population is 1782. Roughly 75% of employment is related to agriculture. Randolph is also home to Jung Seed Company, a nursery and seed/plant order business.
The courses offered in the agricultural education program at Randolph reflects the community. These courses include: agriculture survey, Plant and Soil Science, Animal Science, Farm and Business Management, Conservation, Horticulture, Small Animal Care and Management, Agriculture Mechanics and Agriculture Leadership.
Gundlach’s teaching philosophy involves student interaction with himself in all areas of the curriculum. He knows all the families of his students and is teaching many children of former students. Gundlach’s philosophy also embraces the different learning styles of children. He is also a strong disciple of the connection between classroom instruction, FFA and SAE. Gundlach is also a firm believer in the old adage that success breeds success.
The instructional techniques in place at Randolph include hands-on learning whenever possible. Gundlach also incorporates lecture and laboratory activities. He begins with an overview of the previous day’s lesson. This, Gundlach says, “is a form of teaching that has allowed me to let all students experience some success and increased the attention span and the desire to learn.
Experiential learning is also an important tool Gundlach uses. He is the chairman of the school’s School to Work program. All students placed in the School to Work program must complete a portfolio, resume, list and identify skills and efficiencies and keep accurate and up to date work logs. They must also secure references, write career objectives, write a letter of application for the job and complete the job application. The agricultural education students complete supervised agriculture experiences (SAE) that are full of hands-on and experiential learning.
Student organizations are an important aspect of student and program success. The Randolph FFA is the largest chapter in Wisconsin with 254 members. The chapter participates in Food for America, National Ag Day presentations and has been a state gold national chapter the past two years. Over that last ten years, the Randolph FFA produced 126 State FFA Degree recipients, 41 American Degree recipients, 28 State Proficiency winners, nine National Proficiency finalists and two National Proficiency Winners. Gundlach personally believes “the success of our students and chapter on the state and national levels to be the benchmarks of local program success since they illustrate active and productive SAE’s in the field of agriculture and a comprehensive chapter program of activities.
Gundlach secured four partnerships with local banks that provide monies for chapter projects. The local R.W. Farm Tractor Repair assists the chapter members with restoration of farm tractors used in raffles for fundraisers. Jung Seed Company supports the chapter’s American Degree Fund, the FFA Foundation, annual awards banquet and hire many students for SAE placement work.
Gundlach and the agriculture department also developed a good partnership with University of Wisconsin-Platteville. Three student teachers were placed at Randolph over the last four years.
Marketing the program is a full time job. The program must always be kept in the public eye. Each year, during FFA week, the chapter publishes a 48 page newsletter high lighting awards and programs. It goes to 2700 homes in two school districts. They also mail out updates twice a year. Also, they have 2 articles a month in the local paper.
The chapter also takes advantage of two open houses the school holds. FFA members present on the agricultural education at Randolph High School and they also serve as tour guides.
Each year the FFA collects geranium plants from the community before the frost and use them for the propagation of new plants. In the spring each person comes into the school to retrieve their plants. They usually bring someone along and this puts the program in the public eye.
Three years ago the chapter began having thank you cards made with the officer team picture on them. All donors are sent a signed officer photo card. This allows a personal touch so donors can make connections with names and faces.
Another great marketing tool is the chapter awards banquet. Each year 250-300 people attend this event that honors all FFA members, donors, and community members.
A popular marking and community service project is the senior citizen help program. The chapter assists with spring lawn care chores and have summer and weekend visits.
“The best way to impress upon students the value of leadership is to be a leader,” Gundlach says. This veteran teacher is a leader in his school district, community and professional associations.
Gundlach served on numerous local teacher union committees and was chief negotiator for 13 years. He was elected to the local school board in 2000 and serves on the budget committee. However, he does not vote on any agriculture or personnel matters.
He is also involved with the curricular aspects of vocational education. He is an active member of the Randolph High School curriculum committee. They are currently working to align with Wisconsin’s academic standards.
Despite keeping busy with school and FFA, Gundlach is very active in the Randolph community. He participates in the Chamber of Commerce, Kiwanis Club, Women’s Club, Booster Club and the Randolph Village Board.
Professionally, Gundlach serves the Wisconsin Association of Vocational Agriculture Instructors. He is the Alternate Vice President and will take over as Section VI Vice President in 2002.
“Keith’s program is an excellent example of incorporating and integrating the classroom SAE and FFA to give students a very thorough and balanced agriculture/FFA experience,” notes Brian Hendrikson, agricultural education teacher at Montello High School.
This testament holds true for Keith Gundlach. He is a hard working veteran who keeps the interests of students at the forefront and works hard to see that each one is ready to be productive members of society.
Gundlach is the 2001 NAAE Region III Outstanding Teacher.
|© Copyright National Association of Agricultural Educators, 2001|
|For more information on the activities and programs described in this report, contact the NAAE office or check with your state agriculture teachers' association for items such as deadlines.|