Teacher Mentor Awards

Teacher mentors are willing and able to give of themselves to assist other teachers. They realize that the future is in our young teachers and help prepare them to be leaders and become successful in years to come in the classroom and the community. The NAAE Teacher Mentor Award recognizes those educators that lend a hand to others in their profession.

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Region I
Kevin Fochs
Parks High School
Livingston, MT

Kevin Fochs

With 27 years of teaching experience, Fochs has the opportunity to share his knowledge with many new teachers to the field of agricultural education. Four of his own students have been inspired to choose the agricultural education profession. Fochs has also supervised ten student teachers and provided guidance to help them become successful educators. With the start of Montana’s new mentoring program, Fochs has enjoyed serving as a mentor to a first year teacher. They take time to meet in person, as well as communicate by telephone, to discuss curriculum, lesson plans, classroom management, FFA, as well as tips to get through the first year of teaching.

“Professionally, I care about all educators and hope each one of them can gain lifelong success in teaching and expand both professionally and personally,” said Fochs. “I can influence the teachers of tomorrow’s world and I hope that the time I get to spend with them helps them become useful and productive educators.”

Fochs has encouraged all new teachers to become involved in professional organizations like the Montana Association of Agricultural Educators (MAAE) and NAAE. During his time as an officer in both organizations, Fochs had the opportunity to talk to new teachers and has presented at several beginning teacher programs through MAAE. He has served as a guest speaker and mentor for pre-service teachers at Montana State University.

“Kevin has continually demonstrated that he is very diplomatic, honest, sympathetic, firm and committed to his role as an agricultural educator,” said Jim Rose, agricultural educator in Clyde Park, Mont. “These traits have made him one of the most respected agriculture teachers we have in our state. His enthusiasm for teaching agriculture and serving as an FFA advisor is a standard by which many teachers are measured.”

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Region II
Tim Vanover
Waukomis High School

Waukomis, OK

Tim Vanover

During his 35 years of teaching at Waukomis High School in Waukomis, Okla., Vanover has impacted many lives, inspiring seven Waukomis students to become agriculture teachers, supervising 23 student teachers attending Oklahoma State University, and mentoring fellow educators as they begin their teaching careers.

Vanover encourages early career teachers to teach what they know and learn what they don’t.  He also encourages them to become active in their community and stresses that it is beneficial for students to complete community service projects.  Vanover believes a lot of learning comes not from textbooks, but from the heart, and serving others gives students a clearer picture about what being good citizens truly means.

Vanover’s advice for early career teachers is to get students involved with supervised agricultural experience (SAE) projects.  He has been creative during his teaching career with helping students choose projects helping local farmers, shop owners, and obtaining donations from local businesses.

“I strive to model after him,” said Grant Gungoll, Ringwood High School agriculture teacher.  “His example of staying current in the field has inspired me, along with countless others in Oklahoma, to always strive to learn and grow as a teacher and as a human being.”

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Region III
Rachel Sauvola
New Richmond High School
New Richmond, WI

Rachel Sauvola

Sauvola has a passion for agricultural education, with a focus on mentoring new teachers. She serves as a mentor to third-year teacher Lisa Kossel, an agricultural educator in Glenwood City, Wis.  While at the county fair, Sauvola took time to introduce Kossel, who was new to the area, to important individuals.  When school is in session they communicate regularly through phone calls and emails. They also meet for dinner once a month with their families.

“Rachel served on our state’s steering team to create a formal mentor/mentee program for Wisconsin. She was one of our first officially trained mentors and has made it her personal mission to see that new teachers in our state achieve success,” said Bridgett Neu, WAAE executive director.

On the state level, Sauvola co-chairs the new teacher committee for the Wisconsin Association of Agricultural Educators (WAAE). She facilitates committee meetings, keeps in contact with new teachers throughout the year, and coordinates a special pre-conference program at the annual WAAE Professional Development Conference. Sauvola has been able to continue her contact with many of these new teachers as a co-teacher of a graduate class at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls (UWRF) for beginning teachers. She has also taught a sophomore-level undergraduate class at UWRF and mentored 25 pre-service teachers.

“Last fall Rachel taught the Program Delivery in Agricultural, Extension and Leadership Education course for our department,” said Dr. Tim Buttles, associate professor in Agricultural Education at UWRF. “She added a course assignment where each of the 25 students planned and taught a lesson for one of her high school classes. This activity illustrates Rachel’s commitment to supporting the development of future educators.”

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Region IV
Scott Stone
Centralia High School
Centralia, MO

Scott Stone

Stone has served as an agricultural educator at Centralia High School for 11 years.  He has hosted five aspiring teachers during their junior year experience, allowing them to visit his classroom throughout the semester and to teach a mini lesson during their last visit.  He has served as a cooperating teacher for seven student teachers.

Stone, along with another agriculture teacher, offers a workshop for current teachers on successful SAEs and award applications.  He mentors first and second year teachers by offering phone calls, emails, school visits, lesson plan reviewing and professional feedback.

Stone remains technologically savvy by maintaining the district email listserv for agriculture instructors and assisting his students in designing and maintaining the FFA chapter website, which features forms, applications and chapter materials to be downloaded by students and other teachers.

“Scott has been a consummate advisor, counselor, role model, advocate, communicator and above all else, a friend,” said Bryan Garton, Interim Associate Dean and professor of agricultural education at the University of Missouri.  “I can think of no one in our state who has served more aspiring and young teachers in the last five years than Scott.”

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Region V
John "Mike" Blankenship
North Knox Career & Technical Center
Knoxville, TN

John Blankenship

Blankenship’s background in horticulture allows him to share his knowledge with those he mentors.  He uses techniques like observation, presentation, small group meetings and individual communication to mentor young teachers.

“After I switched programs two years ago, I relied on Mike to help answer many questions on teaching greenhouse,” said Dale Tucker, North Greene agriculture teacher.  “Through his help and encouragement we have a successful greenhouse program.”

Horticulture is not his only expertise, and Blankenship makes sure he passes his knowledge of other areas to those individuals he mentors. He uses the most up to date technology in his curriculum and is often asked to assist other teachers. Also, Blankenship believes strongly in the supervised agricultural experience program component of agricultural education and talks with his mentees about how to assist students with their projects.

Blankenship credits his students with the accomplishments they have achieved and takes a team approach to instructing. To stay current on information for his classroom, he attends conferences and workshops and is certified in numerous areas. He also works closely with community members to increase understanding and awareness about agriculture.

“Mr. Blankenship is and always has been an active participant in community-related activities,” said H.B. Jenkins, assistant principal at North Knox Technology Center. “He is a strong advocate of student involvement in community, service and beautification projects.”

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Region VI
Krista Pontius
Greenwood School District
Millerstown, PA

Krista Pontius

In her first years as an agricultural educator, Pontius was advised by veteran teachers. Through her experiences, Pontius understands how important it is to support beginning teachers. She strives to make a difference as a mentor, as well as by serving as the mentoring coordinator for the Pennsylvania Association of Agricultural Educators (PAAE).

In her role as mentoring coordinator, Pontius identifies new teachers each fall and selects mentors for them. She also writes monthly articles that are sent out to all agricultural educators, with a focus on beginning teachers. She also reaches out to her mentees by contacting them once a week, corresponding through emails or visiting with them to discuss their professional development. With her encouragement, every teacher that she has mentored is a member of both NAAE and PAAE. Pontius feels strongly about professional organizations and presents a workshop annually titled “Why Join Your Professional Organization?” for new teachers.

Pontius’ passion for developing new teachers is so strong that her Masters’ degree project was the creation of a website for new teachers featuring information on instruction, supervised agricultural experiences, FFA, an introduction of key leaders in Pennsylvania agricultural education and a monthly to-do list.

“There is no one who more embodies the heart and soul of a mentor and educator, as does Mrs. Pontius,” said Diane Glock, agricultural educator at Juniata High School.  “Words alone cannot do justice to her selflessness and commitment to agricultural education and her community. In all whom she meets, she leaves an impact.”

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