Outstanding Teacher Awards

Enthusiastic, motivated, inspiring. these are just a few words that describe an Outstanding Teacher. The NAAE Outstanding Teacher Awards go to agriculture teachers that have kept a tradition of excellence in their program along with the inborn love for agriculture.

Region I William Lombardi, MT
Region II Mark Sneary, OK
Region III Dave VanderWal, SD
Region IV Tim Larrick, MO
Region V Doug Latta, NC
Region VI Tara Berescik, NY

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Region I
William Lombardi
Powell County High School
Deer Lodge, MT

William Lombardi

Since 1986, Lombardi has provided students at Powell County High School an opportunity to learn about agriculture through a science-based, hands-on approach. He balances classroom instruction and hands-on experiences to not only teach content, but life skills. Lombardi creates curriculum that is stimulating and challenging for the students while preparing them for the workforce or a post-secondary program.

“Applied science and technologies drive my program, which also prepares students for post-secondary occupation and education,” said Lombardi. “It is my goal to prepare students to be productive members of society and to instill in them a strong sense of the importance of the need to have a qualified workforce in the agricultural industries.”

Not only do students learn in the classroom and shop, but also have access to a meat processing facility and a 72 acre school farm land lab that houses more than 200 head of livestock. Students enrolled in the aquaculture class also raise trout in a self-contained aquaculture system; the first program in the state to do so. Lombardi has been leading the way in agricultural education, inspiring four former students to teach agriculture and supervising two student teachers. He has also been named the Montana Agriscience Teacher of the Year and was part of the team of teachers to bring agriscience into Montana agriculture programs.

“Bill has provided his students with cutting edge vocational and agricultural educational opportunities by engaging them in hands-on approaches to contemporary problem solving and research,” stated Rick Duncan, superintendent at the Powell County High School. “His collaborative work with local business and ranchers has brought reliable, realistic, and pragmatic classroom experiences to his students. His work at the local level and with the state and national FFA programs is widely recognized and awarded.”

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Region II
Mark Sneary
Garber Public Schools
Garber, OK

Mark Sneary

For the past 20 years, Sneary has taught in Garber, where he strives to challenge students both in and out of the classroom through a variety of teaching methods.  Students are given a wide range of classes to choose from in the Garber agriculture program, all of which include lecture, demonstrations and hands-on experiences. Classes include an eighth grade exploratory class, agriscience I and II, agriculture power and technology I and II, and agribusiness. Many of the students in his classes go straight into the workforce, so Sneary works hard to prepare them for the real world.

“My primary goal as a teacher is to provide my students with the necessary skills and knowledge to be productive, responsible citizens and to allow them every opportunity to succeed as individuals,” said Sneary. “As an educator, I provide not only classroom instruction, but also individualized instruction as an essential component of my curriculum in an effort to allow students to assimilate what they have learned into a meaningful experience.”

A testament to Sneary’s dedication to students is the 84 state FFA degree and 22 American FFA degree recipients of the Garber FFA since his arrival to the program.  Sneary has also advised four state FFA officers and the Star Farmer of America in 2008. Sneary’s involvement in his students’ life does not stop in the classroom or FFA events; he is well-known for going above and beyond to help students. Whether it is helping pull a calf with a student in the middle of the night, or helping fix a flat tire, Sneary’s students can always count on him.

“When I first came to Garber I told Mark that he was doing a lot of things that were not part of his job description. He did not have to go with a student’s parents to Iowa to pick out a hog,” said Marc Hatton, Garber High School principal. “Of course, he ignored me and has kept on doing much more than he has too. It is who he is. A teacher will do whatever he can to help his students become the best they can possibly be in not only the field of agriculture, but also life.”

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Region III
Dave VanderWal
De Smet School District
De Smet, SD

Dave VanderWal

Each day VanderWal asks himself each what he can do to help students be successful at DeSmet High School. This teaching philosophy has proven successful as the curriculum for each class is flexible to be able to be tailored to the students’ interests. VanderWal accomplishes this through allowing students to choose areas that interest them, promoting skills in math, science, language arts and social studies, and offering opportunities for all students to excel.

“Providing students with what they need for their future meant having to design a program that allowed them to choose specific areas of study within the curriculum of the course they were completing. These areas of study then relate to their career goals or specific interests,” said VanderWal.

Students have the opportunity to enroll in a wide variety of courses offered through the agriculture program in De Smet. They range from agricultural mechanics, horticulture and landscape, animal science, agricultural business, and natural resources. The curriculum that VanderWal has developed provides plenty of hands-on activities for students. The horticulture class designs flower beds for the city parks, then grows and plants the flowers themselves. You’ll find students in the ag metal fabrication technology class designing their projects, ordering parts and bringing it all together with a completed project.

“One of the areas we admire most in Mr. VanderWal’s life is that he is such a positive role model for the students in and out of school. He realizes you need to ‘walk the walk’ not just ‘talk the talk’ and by doing this he is a true leader by example,” said Mark and Susan Geib, De Smet community members.

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Region IV
Tim Larrick
South Shelby High School
Shelbina, MO

Tim Larrick

Beginning his teaching career at Monroe City, Larrick returned to South Shelby High School, his alma mater, four years later in 1997. In his time at South Shelby, he has doubled the enrollment in the agriculture program through hands-on curriculum and a passion for teaching and FFA. A belief that there is no such thing as a bad student, but students that make bad choices, helps Larrick give each student a fresh start in his classes. Larrick provides students with a ‘clean slate,’ while setting high expectations and explaining about consequences from their actions.

Larrick has developed four curriculum guides for the Missouri School Improvement Program, as well as assisting the Instructional Materials Laboratory with curriculum for advanced livestock and poultry. Taking into consideration student surveys, he created an agriculture leadership course with a focus on communication for his own program. Larrick strives to promote the agriculture program at South Shelby every day by sharing the success of the students with the administrators, the community, future students, and parents.

“As everyone knows, a program is only as good as the person who is in charge of it. Mr. Larrick is not only a great teacher, but also a great motivator,” said Rick Roberts, superintendent of schools for the Shelby County School District. “The students look at Mr. Larrick as a role model and leader. He has the personality to bring students on board and allow them to take ownership of the program.”

“It is obvious by their actions that Mr. Larrick has very high expectations of his students. Each minute he spends teaching the students about leadership, community involvement and willingness to help someone in need, helps ensure our communities have citizens who are willing and capable of being leaders,” said Mike and April Dodd, parents involved with the South Shelby agriculture program.

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Region V
Douglas Latta
Sun Valley High School
Monroe, NC

Douglas Latta

Latta has been making learning interesting and meaningful to students since he began teaching at Sun Valley High School in 1996.  He works to relate classroom instruction to real-world situations and incorporates core subjects like math into his lessons.  He requires all students at Sun Valley to have a supervised agricultural experience (SAE) program that allows them to learn on a job site and to keep financial records.

“It is important that we provide students the opportunity to learn job skills that will make them successful members of society,” said Latta.

Latta advises the Sun Valley FFA and makes sure that students are actively involved in the community.  Members have conducted canned food and water drives for hurricane victims, assisted in building houses with Habitat for Humanity, and partnered with the high school student council to provide Christmas gifts for needy children.  Latta’s partnerships with local businesses are essential to student success, as they have provided plants, wood and metal for his shop classes.  His students organize and host Wake Up to Agriculture, a program that promotes agriculture to the third grade students in the local elementary schools.

Latta is always looking for opportunities for professional growth and is active in several organizations.  He has received his National Board certification and been recognized as Sun Valley’s Teacher of the Year.

“In the time I have worked with Doug I have seen his hard work and dedication to his students,” said Dale Cochran, fellow Sun Valley High School agriculture teacher.  “He makes tireless efforts to motivate his students to reach their greatest potential.”

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Region VI
Tara Berescik
Tri-Valley Central School
Grahamsville, NY

Tara Berescik

Outside the Tri-Valley Central School agriculture classroom is a four-foot sign with the FFA motto, ‘Learning to do, doing to learn, learning to do, living to serve.’ This motto serves as the foundation of Berescik’s teaching philosophy, and she strives to provide a hands-on education for her students and help them succeed in life. Berescik’s curriculum includes floral design, small animal care, pre-veterinary science, environmental science, and international agriculture.

Berescik has collaborated with other educators across the country to develop curriculum that engages students. She helped pilot a pre-veterinary science course and a plant science curriculum with teachers from California and Florida. The students enrolled in her floral design classes have the opportunity to teach adult education classes and run their own floral design business. Berescik also led a group of her international agriculture to Ireland in 2007 and New Zealand in 2009.

“As far as her ability to provide sound, interdisciplinary instruction; she is exceptional,” said Robert Worden, high school principal at Tri-Valley Central School. “Her charismatic presentation, coupled with an ability to provide material using a multi-sensory and multi-modal approach is unsurpassed.”

“As a teacher, I strive to completely teach to every child in this program, not just their minds, their hands or their hearts,” said Berescik. “Without making these links, the child misses out on valuable opportunities and I feel that agricultural education allows students to get the foundations necessary to be productive and competent citizens.

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