Outstanding Young Member Awards

Young members of any organization are the seeds from which the organization grows. One way that the NAAE recognizes new young members is to award them on their successes in the classroom.

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Region I
Justin Patten
Snake River High School
Blackfoot, Idaho

"Reflecting on my educational experiences, I realize that my high school agricultural classes were the only classes where I felt at home," recalls Justin Patten, agricultural educator at Snake River High School in Idaho. This feeling of ease and belonging has encouraged Patten to pursue a career in ag education for the past six years. Snake River High School is located in one of the prime agricultural areas in Idaho, being the largest potato producing county. All of Patten's students have an agricultural background and many work on farms, ranches, welding shops, agribusiness, and county agencies. Patten has high expectations of his students and believes that expecting the best from them will make them succeed through heightened confidence and self-esteem.

Patten's ensures that his students can form strong partnerships within the community through projects carried out each year. In the greenhouse students are able to raise bedding plants for the local greenhouse and raise potatoes in cooperation with the Bingham Cooperative. These projects give students practical applications that they can take back to their respective practices. By integrating math and science into agricultural courses, Patten is helping ensure the future success of his students. One way in which Patten integrates core coursework in his teaching is through the use of blueprints. Students learn a practical skill while honing in on core content. Patten engages his students by applying new skills to the basis of knowledge that they bring into the classroom each day.

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Region II
Michael Stuckey
Lone Grove High School
Lone Grove, Oklahoma

Michael Stuckey, agricultural educator at Lone Grove High School in Oklahoma, believes that experience is the best teacher and embodies the philosophy when teaching his students. Through organized instruction, SAE's, and the FFA, Stuckey's students are able to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the unique dynamics of the agricultural industry today.

Stuckey uses advancements in technology to assist with his lessons and as tools for student use. He may use a Power Point presentation in class one day and have students utilizing the computer lab the next. "The use of the computer is modernizing agriculture and society so I feel all students should be proficient in its use if they are to prepare for college or the workforce after graduation from high school," emphasizes Stuckey. Students use technology as a means of promoting the program as well. Newsletters keep parents in touch with what is happening in the program, while tv and radio appearances educate the public on the Lone Grove FFA.

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Region III
Brenda Gienau
Wittenberg-Birnamwood High School
Birnamwood, Wisconsin

Brenda Gienau is an agriculture teacher at Wittenberg-Birnamwood High School, located in a rural community in Wisconsin. Over the past few years, Gienau has adapted to the changing dynamic within this rural community. Most recently, Birnamwood has seen a shift away from the small family farm and toward corporate and large scale production. This changing dynamic within the structure of the community have impacted the the nature of agricultural education at Wittenberg-Birnamwood High School.

Gienau enters the classroom each day with the philosophy that students are more receptive to learning when they enjoy it and that they retain more information when the experience is pleasurable for them. This year Gienau began an interdisciplinary venture that allowed students to produce their own food and prepare it in conjunction with the family and consumer sciences department. Endeavors such as this challenge students and empower them to make healthy decisions in their lives. "When a class is energetic, place-based, interesting, and relevant to students' lives, they enjoy the learning. They then talk about it to their parents and other students. The result is a large program with plenty of community support," emphasizes Gienau.

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Region IV
Eric A. Richer
Wauseon High School
Wauseon, Ohio

The Wauseon High School agriculture program, lead by Eric Richer, has strong roots in a community where production agriculture dominates. Consequently, Richer works diligently to ensure that the curriculum includes aspects of science, the environment, research and technology. "My teaching philosophy is student focused while maintaining value to the community and agricultural industry. It is one that uses the industry of agriculture, horticulture and natural resources to teach students applied academics in a hands-on and practical setting," emphasized Richer.

Richer ensures that the curriculum taught at Wauseon accurately reflects the needs of the community. This ag program was originally designed to each youth how to more effectively run their farming operations. Today, the emphasis is quite different, as agriculture, horticulture and environmental sciences are used to build on core content and technical skills.

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Region V
Michael Vestal
Riverside High School
Decaturville, Tennessee

Michael Vestal, agriculture teacher at Riverside High School in Tennessee, chose to pursue a career in teaching as a means of giving back to a program that had given so much to him. Each day Vestal watches his students grown and mature into future leaders within the community. In his six years of teaching at Riverside, Vestal has developed many curriculum resources to assist in his instructional needs, regularly utilizing technologies such as the Internet and Power Point

The greatest assessment of Vestal's instruction comes from the standardized testing that takes place outside of his agriscience classroom. All students in Tennessee are required to pass Gateway Tests in Biology, Algebra, and English to receive their high school diplomas. To date, 100 percent of Vestal's students have passed this exam and 44 percent of these students have received the highest ranking. Vestal helps ensure the future success of his students by integrating mathematics, science and language arts in each of his classes, making sure that students utilize higher order thinking skills to read, write and defend their positions.

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Region VI
Carrie Schlechter
North Warren Regional High School
Budd Lake, New Jersey

Each day North Warren Regional High School agriculture teacher, Carrie Schlechter, enters the classroom with a focus on teaching students the need and importance of agriculture in everyday life. "One of the most important goals of the program is to help students gain an awareness of agriculture and to prepare students with the career and life skills needed to help them succeed in our continually changing community," emphasizes Schlechter. Due to the changing nature of agriculture, new concepts are constantly being integrated into the classroom and lesson plans and units are adapted to reflect the diverse needs of the industry.

Schlechter motivates her students by incorporating hands-on activities such as the greenhouse, computer technology, GPS units, an outdoor classroom, a five-acre wildlife management area and the Paulinskill River in her program instruction. By accommodating the various learning styles of her students, Schlechter helps shape her students into well-rounded people that will succeed in both the FFA, community and their futures.

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