Region III Vice President
If you would have told me as high school freshman that I would become an Ag. teacher and teach for over 25 years, I probably would have called you crazy. Well, in some ways, we are all a little crazy! I didn’t actually take an Ag. Class or join FFA until my sophomore year. Agriculture was my life as I grew up on a small dairy in Wisconsin, but I just wasn’t sure that agriculture was my life at school. My brother and his friends literally twisted my arm, and I took my first Ag. class. Then I signed up for another and another, I really loved my time in Ag. Classes and FFA. This led me to pursuing a degree in Ag. Education at the University of Wisconsin – River Falls and the rest is history!
Speaking of history, agriculture classes and FFA felt and looked a lot different when I first started teaching in Wisconsin in 1995. I have seen a huge change in female student and teacher numbers and involvement over time, including much longer lines for the women’s restroom! I have helped develop leaders in my classroom and FFA no matter what gender or background by focusing on the fact that there is something for everyone in Agriculture and the FFA for the past 25 years. I met my husband of 24 years, Dan, when I was in college. His roots landed our family in Sleepy Eye, MN in 2006 where I have taught for the past 14 years. We have two girls, Cassidy (a sophomore in college) and Morgan (a junior in high school). If you have had the opportunity to teach your own children and watch them grow as leaders in your chapter, you know it is one of the most rewarding things an Ag. teacher can experience. It was extremely fulfilling to see my own girls volunteer instead of being voluntold and step out of their comfort zones on their own!
In addition to teaching my own children and having taught for over half of my life, I have had other great milestones in this career. As a single person department, I was breathing life back into Ag. programs that were almost non-existent. I started a new program with only two classes and built it to a full-time position in one year. I grew my current program from one Ag. teacher to three full-time teachers and received $30,000 in grants just this year for shop upgrades and for FFA programming and service projects. To me, having previous students teach agriculture is a very satisfying milestone as well. However, I would have to say that one of my most rewarding accomplishments is building a sense of family in my Ag. classes and FFA. In our Ag./FFA family, we strive to make everyone feel like they belong. I am also very proud of being able to overcome stereotypes about Ag. Class and FFA as well as break down economic barriers so any student can attend events and achieve their goals through development of an Ag. Booster Club.
Teaching in two different states and talking with Ag. teachers from across the country has shown me that everywhere you go there are amazing students and awesome communities to be a part of. I have also found when traveling to National Conventions and Region Conferences, there are great Ag. teacher families around this nation who are welcoming and willing to grow professionally every chance they get. Some of my professional involvements include: being a member on the Wisconsin and Minnesota Association of Agricultural Educators Leadership Teams, MN SAE Committee Member and Chair, State Teach Ag. Results (STAR) Committee, Region Mentor, State Mentor, Summer Intern and Student Teacher Host, 4-H Leader, High School Leadership Team, and Staff Development Committee.
The passion I have for this career has only grown over the years. It is inspiring to me that after 25 years I still find myself super excited to teach and feel so much joy when students have success, no matter how big or small. I enjoy sharing this passion with others through my involvement in NAAE. I advocate for teachers, committee efforts, award recipients and programs, and the advancement of our organization as a board member. As President Elect, I will strive to continue the valuable professional development programs that are available through NAAE as well as lead the effort to get the “wise” or “seasoned” owl program off the ground. I will also focus on the post cohort programming for Teacher Turn the Key and XLR8; including how this group can remain in contact and utilize their network of teachers and resources throughout their future careers. In addition, recruitment of quality Ag. teachers and teacher retention are priorities for me. If we build on the great foundation we have, NAAE can impact more Ag. teachers and Ag. programs, as well as continue to be a driving force in advancing Agricultural Education across this country.
Region V Vice President
Where were you when you were introduced to the world of the National Association of Agricultural Educators or your State Affiliate? Was it while you were a student in one of your university agricultural classes or maybe at a state convention during a membership drive? I can remember when a mentor asked if I would be willing to serve on the Florida Association of Agricultural Educators board. That opportunity changed my outlook on what the NAAE and FAAE really meant and how it impacted my life and career. Can you relate to a mentor believing in you when maybe you didn’t believe in yourself?
Just as the NAAE is supported by a strong board and staff so am I as an agricultural educator. My family consist of my wonderful wife, Wendy and my two sons, Josh and Jeremy. Wendy is a registered nurse and the FFA Mom of the Cottondale Chapter. My two sons are students in my agriculture classes and FFA members. We live in Cottondale, Florida, a rural town where watermelons, cotton and peanuts dominate as cash crops. I had the privileged to grow up and work on the family farm and produce stand in the world-famous Watermelon Alley. God has truly blessed me with a great family and past.
In 2007 I was hired on at Sneads High School in a single agriculture teacher. In my 6-year tenure there, we achieved a high level of excellence expected by the school and community while working through obstacles and growth. Then I transferred to Cottondale High School and have been teaching here for 7+ years. It is also a single teacher program but with sentimental history since it is the school I graduated from. Teaching in the building I received my agriculture education from and now passing that knowledge I obtained from that building along to my 2 sons as well as 135 other students has been amazing. During my tenure I am honored to be the advisor to 13 FFA State Championships, Three National FFA 3 Star Chapters, NAAE Outstanding Middle School Program, Numerous FFA American and State degree students. I have had the privilege to be recognized twice as the FAAE Outstanding Agricultural Educator of the year, FAAE Agriscience Teacher of the Year and Florida FFA Advisor of the year.
I have had the opportunity to serve on the FAAE and Florida FFA Boards for the past 11 years and was honored to serve on both boards as President. I also have been a member of several of Florida’s CTE Academic Alignment Committees and have served on the Florida Department of Education agriculture framework revision reviews. My role as a member, officer and leader of agricultural education is one I take with sincerity, enthusiasm, and an unwavering compassion. We are not sure what the future holds but one thing for sure is that agriculture will still be needed and depended on. The NAAE will be a forefront leader in getting the message out and this can only be done with well-versed, educated and desire driven leadership.
The NAAE is an organization built on sounds truths, cutting edge innovations and a solid educational base. It would be my honor to serve as your president-elect and help navigate our professional organization over the next year. Even though the future seems cloudy at the present time remember the proverbial saying “every cloud has a silver lining.”
I truly hope you have had or will have the same the opportunity I have experienced as a member and officer of this great organization. To be a leader or officer of the NAAE is nothing less than an honor. Regardless if you are an officer, or if you serve on a committee you play an essential and necessary role within this professional organization. If you elect me to be your president-elect, I will continue to look for avenues for our members to become more involved. The enduring direction of this organization depends on recruiting and developing well informed and knowledgeable members that will take on the role as future leaders within the NAAE.