Outstanding Middle/Secondary Program Awards

FFA Alumni

Sensational. This is the best way to describe this year’s NAAE Outstanding Middle/Secondary School Agriculture Education Programs, sponsored by the National FFA Alumni Association.

The NAAE Awards these programs for their overall success, growth, and motivation.

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Region I
Buena Park High School
Buena Park, California
Instructor: Jessica Weisbart

Jessica Weisbart

Jessica Weisbart, who began teaching at Buena Park in 2006, has transformed the program into one of the premier agricultural education programs in the state of California. Three years ago, the program had three and a half acres of deserted farm land, a poultry and rabbit barn that was used to keep trash, no facilities to work with animals, and no landscaping. Today the four and a half acre facility includes a new barn with space for 100 market animals, three show and exercise arenas for steers, sheep, goats and pigs, a refurbished poultry and rabbit facility that currently houses 65 laying hens. The garden plot boasts a brand-new sprinkler irrigation system and the 350 fruit trees have micro-sprinkler irrigation installed. Community members helped students landscape the front lawn areas and install a six foot waterfall and sign to recognize the agriculture program.

“Today our farm is a beautiful, thriving hub of activity for many students. Our facilities look amazing, including beautiful new groves of trees and the school’s “footprint” in the middle of our somewhat poor, urban community has become a source of pride for the residents of our city,” said Benjamin Wolf, principal at Buena Park High School.

These facilities allow for students to gain hands-on experience within the rigorous classes included in the animal science and horticulture pathways. The ag earth, ag biology and vet science courses now meet high school graduation requirements for science credit and are recognized by the University of California and California State University. Under Weisbart’s leadership the Buena Park agriculture program formed articulation agreements with Mount San Antonia Junior College and Cal Poly Pomona University for students to receive college credit for the animal science and ornamental horticulture classes.

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Region II
Ponchatoula High School
Ponchatoula, LA
Instructors: Donna Jean Heinrich, Alice Dubois

Donna Jean Heinrich Alice Dubois

Heinrich and Dubois’ goal as educators is to identify the greatest strength of each student and capitalize on it to promote that student’s success.  Both inside and outside the classroom, students learn valuable leadership traits like respect, integrity, honesty and compassion as part of Heinrich and Dubois’ attempts to foster citizenship.  Their curriculum allows students to run the FFA chapter’s business, Greenwave Growers, a strawberry production company, bottle feed a kangaroo along with other animals as part of their partnership with Kangaroo Connections and the Southeastern Game Ranchers Association, and take part in a variety of other hands-on experiences.

The Ponchatoula agricultural education program has 100 percent membership in their FFA chapter and has received two national Models of Innovation awards as part of the national chapter award competition.  Students are active in career development events (CDEs) and livestock showing.  The program recently received a grant to enhance their program by building a livestock barn.  They partner with local business and organizations to fundraise and participate in community service activities.  Heinrich and Dubois keep parents informed on projects by sending home a newsletter every six weeks with their report cards.

“Heinrich and Dubois embody what it means to be true educators, and the fruit that their efforts have borne are exemplified in the quality of their program,” said Bradley Leger, agriscience education program specialist.  “I have always been impressed by the quality of student leaders they produce and how they exude a sense of confidence, discipline, empowerment, decorum and love of agriculture.”

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Region III
Marshfield Middle and High School
Marshfield , WI
Instructors: Tim Heeg, Mark Zee

Tim Heeg Mark Zee

Zee and Heeg have a combined 29 years of teaching at Marshfield; Zee with 16 and Heeg with 13.  With 340 students enrolled in their 13 courses and 150 FFA members, they stay busy.  The two believe in the teaching philosophy of instruction by facilitation while encouraging hands-on learning, promoting active community involvement, and encouraging healthy lifestyles.

Students at Marshfield take advantage of three agriculture classrooms equipped with data projectors, VCRs and document cameras. Thirty networked computers, a magazine rack with more than 20 subscriptions and 25 hand-held GPS units are available for students in the agriculture program.  Students are able to receive science credit for six of the current agriculture courses and learn in a meat processing lab, cheese making lab, 300 gallon aquaculture system and large greenhouse.  A recent grant has been used to enhance a three acre wetland behind the school with ponds and a wildlife trail.

The Marshfield FFA awards more than $5,000 in scholarships to outstanding students annually, and hosts an officer retreat for surrounding chapters for four days every fall.  The annual fruit fundraiser grossed $45,000 this past year and students who participated were rewarded with an evening of tubing and skiing, along with a rodeo and concert.  Marshfield has an active alumni chapter that holds annual events and partners with the FFA chapter to purchase a food trailer used for breakfasts and other meals.

“Any recognition that Marshfield receives is well deserved, because of the quality leaders they produce each year and the leadership of their advisors in representing not only agriculture, but the entire community,” said William Urban, Pittsville High School agriculture teacher.

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Region IV
Ravenna High School
Ravenna, MI

Instructor: Melanie Block

Melanie Block

Block has spent nine years at Ravenna and attributes the program’s success to community members.  She says that the community is interested in the program because agriculture is important to the town’s economy.

“Our community holds traditional values and their support of students is second to none,” said Block.  “The community is the main reason for this program’s success.”

Every student in the Ravenna agriculture department has a supervised agricultural experience (SAE) program and Block visits to their SAE site regularly, helps them with record keeping, and helps them in file state applications.

Agriculture students at Ravenna are responsible for finding sponsors, prizes, curriculum and animals for their annual event, Farm Days, a two day festival of ag-related activities for children.  The Ravenna FFA Chapter won the state Food for America competition in 2008 for their work with this event.  FFA members assisted elementary school students in designing a peace garden and Block’s leadership class mentors preschool students weekly, explaining agriculture to them.  Students use National FFA Week as an opportunity to visit eighth-grade classes and recruit for the agriculture program, dressed in FFA jackets that were funded through $1,200 of community donations.  On the weekends one might find these students cleaning the portion of the Musketawa Trail that the FFA has adopted.

“Our chapter works hard together to achieve more than we could do as individuals,” said Jasper Cunningham, Ravenna High School student.  “Mrs. Block has shown us the potential we have and how we can harness what we are able to accomplish.”

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Region V
West Rowan High School
Mt. Ulla, NC
Instructors: Clark Adams, Jason Chester

Clark Adams Jason Chester

Adams and Chester center their teaching around hands-on learning.  Their teaching philosophy is to use agriculture as the vehicle that trains students in solving real-world problems and becoming prepared for life after high school.  They integrate core concepts like math and science into their courses through a combination of lectures, group assignments, research, and projects that appeal to the diverse population of students in their 1300-student school.  They utilize their three-acre pasture, open air barn, heated greenhouses, outdoor classroom and nature trail to ensure students receive the best education.

Adams and Chester enhance student learning by including laboratory instruction in each of their classes.  Horticulture classes landscape the school’s campus and students in agricultural mechanics repair and rebuild equipment for community members.  Each student in the West Rowan program must complete a supervised agricultural experience (SAE) program that allows them to gain personal experience in an agricultural career.  The West Rowan FFA Chapter participates with numerous community partners to provide assistance at Relay for Life, offer firewood to families in need, and raise funds using annual events like an oyster roast, golf tournament and a holiday ham and turkey sale.

“Over the last five years, the West Rowan FFA Chapter has progressed from nearly inactive to one of the largest chapters in North Carolina and the largest student organization at West Rowan,” said Nelson Cowden, West Rowan High School administrator.  “Adams and Chester have prepared many young people to be productive beyond high school and pursue careers in agriculture and related fields.”

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Region VI
Manheim Central High School
Manheim, PA
Instructors: Debra Seibert, Heather Anderson

Debra Seibert Heather Anderson

Anderson and Siebert have taught at Manheim Central for a combined 39 years, Siebert for 24 and Anderson for 15.  Grants totaling more than $125,000 have allowed them to purchase tools and equipment, renovate teaching labs and build new barns.

The agricultural department recently added a land lab and supervised agricultural experience (SAE) program livestock stable.  They have a newly renovated greenhouse, a 2,000 sq foot tree nursery, an advanced aquaculture program, and offer 19 electives, including honors courses in the areas of agricultural science and agricultural mechanics.  Seibert and Anderson strive to provide students with a variety of opportunities centered on their agricultural heritage.  It is their daily goal to make every student feel like their time spent in agricultural courses makes a difference in helping to prepare them for the future.

 “I firmly believe our students have been exposed to one of the top programs in the state of Pennsylvania,” said Arlen Mummau, principal of Manheim Central.  “Mrs. Anderson and Mrs. Seibert not only provide the teaching skills and expertise, they show students their own passion for the industry.”

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