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
Shay Williams-Hopper
Tulare Joint Union High School
Tulare, CA

Shay Williams-Hopper

Williams-Hopper believes that education opens a lifetime of opportunities and strives to show her students the possibilities available in agriculture. She creates a well-organized, structured and safe environment for her students to learn through hands-on activities. With a 98-acre school farm that has 78-acres of alfalfa, a working dairy, and five career pathways from which to choose, students definitely have the opportunity to explore many facets agriculture.

“When I see their faces light up with pride, knowing that they did a good job, it makes my heart swell. It is that point I know that I have finally reached them, hook, line and sinker!” said Williams-Hopper. “Through my passion, dedication, enthusiasm, energy and hard work, I hope in some way to teach each of my students to climb mountains and reach for the stars.”

Williams-Hopper includes different activities in her lessons like guest speakers, field trips, lab experiments, and role-playing to engage her students and make her lessons come alive. Students interact with community members through job shadowing at local business and are exposed to new careers through field trips. For instance, Williams-Hopper said many students were inspired to become a veterinary technician or work in a zoo when they were able to witness an anesthetized tiger having her teeth cleaned.

In her five years of teaching, Williams-Hopper has earned her masters degree in agricultural education, has supervised six student teachers, presented at numerous conferences, and will be serving as the California Agriculture Teachers Association president next year. These activities show she is dedicated to agricultural education and works hard to support not only students, but her fellow teachers.

“Shay is the type of teacher that a district and the agriculture community wants to have in its schools,” said Vern Barglio, principal at Tulare Western High School. “Shay has established a great rapport with her students and is the type of teacher who can influence high school students to consider a career in agricultural education.”

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Region II
Gaea Wimmer
Centre High School
Lost Springs, KS

Gaea Wimmer

Wimmer taught agriculture at Centre High School in Lost Springs, Kan. from 2003 till 2009.  She believes in showing students she cares so they will do the same.  She gives them opportunities to set goals and work toward them, encouraging them to associate what they learn in the classroom with real-life work.

In her short time at Centre, Wimmer developed curriculum for four new classes.  She worked to incorporate guest speakers, field trips and lab activities into her lesson plans.  Her experiences in traveling abroad allowed her to create lessons about foreign agriculture, including a project where food science students researched and designed an international foods cookbook.  Wimmer also collaborated with Texas Tech University to conduct a research study about the effectiveness of teaching techniques in agricultural education by analyzing the use of video clips in an animal science class.

In addition to teaching, Wimmer served as a co-advisor to the FFA chapter, assisting students with supervised agricultural experience (SAE) projects, coaching career development events, and encouraging students to become philanthropists.  After a neighboring FFA chapter’s school was damaged in a tornado, Centre FFA members donated one dollar for every box of fruit they sold during their fruit sale, allowing them to donate $738 to the chapter.

Wimmer has been an active member of NAAE, receiving the Teachers Turn the Key Award in 2005.  She began working on her doctoral degree in agricultural education at Texas Tech in August 2009.

“Gaea is a young woman that we as a profession can be extremely proud of,” said Cary Granzow, fellow Centre agriculture instructor.   “Her students like her classes and the enthusiasm she has for FFA has rewarded her with many successes early in her young career.”

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Region III
Adam Wehling
Mondovi High School
Mondovi, WI

Adam Wehling

After graduating with a degree in agricultural education from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, Wehling began teaching at Evansville High School in 2003. He reinvigorated the agricultural program with a philosophy empowering students by leading with energy and passion. In 2007, Wehling started at Mondovi High School and has continued to challenge his students to gain career skills.

"As an agriscience instructor, the courses I teach dually train students employability and life skills,” said Wehling. “New doors must be opened and new avenues explored if students are to enter a successful agricultural career.”

Wehling is clearly an advocate for career success. In his classroom, he facilitates learning through teaching career skills that reflect the surrounding community. A strong partnership with community leaders has provided guest speakers as well as field trip opportunities. The agriculture program advisory council Wehling installed provides guidance for the curriculum. He also facilitates the Mondovi certified work experience, youth apprenticeship, and employability skills certification programs for students to gain experiential learning through career and technical education.

“Mr. Wehling is an exemplary example of professionalism, innovative instructional strategies and community leadership,” said Diane Runde, agricultural educator at Janesville Craig High School in Janesville, Wis. “He is a positive role model that ensures the success of his students and is a leader in the Mondovi agriculture community. Through his dedication to the agricultural industry, engaging educational strategies and student success, Adam has proved that he is an asset to agricultural education.”

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Region IV
Tim McDermott
Waterloo High School
Waterloo, IL

Tim McDermott

McDermott believes strongly that education involves several components, including a good relationship between the student and the teacher, and the support of parents and school administration. He strives to incorporate problem-based learning in his classroom to help students learn through simulated real-world experiences. In his agricultural business management class, the final project is a sales activity where students select a product, develop a marketing approach, and try to sell McDermott the product based on the sales scenario, also created by the student. This activity brings sales and marketing to life in the classroom so students relate their experience to the real world. Thanks to this new curriculum, students receive dual-credit from the area community college, and the class has become the first honors course in the agriculture program.

McDermott played a vital role in the implementation of Project Lead the Way, a national pre-engineering program, at Waterloo High School. The principles of engineering and biotechnical engineering classes were a natural fit for the agricultural mechanics course sequence and introduced a new level of problem-based learning to the agriculture program.

“Tim goes above and beyond expectations to assist students, staff and administration,” said Timothy Kreinberg, principal at Waterloo High School. “He has always accepted responsibility and has the respect and admiration of the students and staff at Waterloo High. In addition, Tim is an educator who connects with the students and faculty, and staff values him for his ideas, his work ethic, and his passion for the students and his craft.”

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Region V
Jason Chester
West Roman High School
Mt. Ulla, NC

Jason Chester

Chester has taught agriculture at West Rowan High School in Mt. Ulla, N.C. since 2004.  In his time there, he has established an active FFA chapter and increased community involvement in his program.  Chester’s 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.  He incorporates core subjects like math and science in a hands-on learning environment to teach students with a wide variety of skills and abilities.

Chester has worked to develop the state curriculum for horticulture classes and makes sure that all of his classes are enhanced through laboratory instruction.  His own horticulture classes landscape the school’s campus, and students in agricultural mechanics repair and rebuild equipment for community members.  Each student in his program must complete a supervised agricultural experience (SAE) program, allowing 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 with annual events like an oyster roast, golf tournament and a holiday ham and turkey sale.  Chester has a master’s degree in agricultural education and is a National Board certified teacher.

“Mr. Chester has brought energy and life to a program that was struggling five years ago,” said Nelson Cowden, West Rowan High School administrator.  “I’m sure that the agriculture program will continue to grow and become even stronger in the future thanks to Mr. Chester and his students.”

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Region VI
Susan Sanger
Queen Anne's County High School
Centreville, MD

Susan Sanger

Sanger bases her teaching philosophy on this quote by educational philosopher Alan Simpson; “An educated man ought to know a little about everything and a lot about something.” Not only is she teaching agriculture and natural resources, but is also reviewing biology, chemistry, communications, and mathematics. Students in her program become well-rounded; prepared to solve problems and apply their knowledge to real-world situations.

“She is an outstanding teacher in the classroom, guiding students with highly effective strategies and including many opportunities for real-world and career-based application,” said Richard McNeal, principal at Queen Anne’s County High School.

Sanger strives not only for her students to learn about agriculture, but also for the school and community to see the value of agricultural education. She has highlighted the agriculture program at Queen Anne’s County High School during meetings of the board of education and county commission. Sanger also serves her fellow agricultural educators as the secretary for Maryland Agriculture Teachers Association.

“Ms. Sanger has displayed outstanding leadership in the state of Maryland, as well as in her local community. She has been a shining example of academic excellence and leadership for the Maryland Agriculture Teachers Association and has represented the state in many agricultural education curriculum projects,” said Jay Davis, agricultural educator in Ridgely, Maryland.

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