Sensational. This is the best way to describe this yearâ€™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.
Margaret Olson, Chris Carlson, Darryl Main and Ryan Ovenell serve as instructors in the Stanwood High School Agriculture Program and together have 82 years of teaching experience. The four instructors believe every lesson they teach must have a specific purpose to provide students with meaningful and relevant material. All of their courses meet educational learning standards, industry competency standards, college preparatory requirements, or local work force needs. The ten courses currently offered include Science Explorations in Agriculture, Applied Sciences in Agriculture, Animal Science, Floriculture and Greenhouse Production, Horticulture, Landscape and Nursery Production, Mechanical Technology in Agriculture 1 & 2, and Natural Resources 1 & 2. Each of these classes either meet science or laboratory requirements at Stanwood High School or provide college credit to students. One course, Floriculture and Greenhouse Production, provides students with a required fine arts credit. This dedication to meeting student needs has provided students with opportunities to prepare for their future careers while taking courses in which they are interested.
“Each of these instructors shows a strong commitment to students and their academic pursuits and career endeavors,” said Kevin G. Plambeck, director of Career and Technical Education in Stanwood Camano School District. “Their dedication to students’ careers and their involvement in professional, community and labor organizations is exemplary.”
Olson, Carlson, Main and Ovenell recognize the support and assistance they receive from the community as one of the main reasons for their program’s success. These community partnerships offer additional educational opportunities, provide financial assistance, and create internships for students. One of their partnerships, with the Washington State Livestock Masters Foundation and the Snohomish County Beef Producers, allows them to sponsor one of the largest community agricultural expos in Washington. This event has been recognized throughout the state, and serves as a model for other counties.
For the past twenty-nine years, James Cannon has been the agriculture teacher at Prescott High School. During his career, Cannon has stayed dedicated to the belief that all students are able to learn, regardless of academic ability. By creating an agriculture program where all students feel welcome, Cannon provides students with opportunities for success, both in the classroom and in life.
“The hands-on aspect of our projects allows students to express their abilities in various ways, in addition to book knowledge,” said Cannon. “They feel a satisfaction in being able to participate in a class where they can achieve goals and gain self-esteem.”
The Prescott High School agriculture program offers 17 different courses on a rotational basis. With such a variety of courses, all students are able to find something that interests them. Students are able to participate in multiple hands-on activities such as managing two forestry plots, working in the greenhouse, or caring for a 12-acre farm. The farm also provides a location for students to keep livestock for their Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) projects. By providing students with various opportunities for hands-on learning, Cannon helps students connect their classroom learning with real-world applications.
Natasha Mortenson is the agriculture teacher and FFA advisor at Morris Area High School. Over her nine years there, she has developed a program that focuses on student learning, meets the learning needs and interests of a diverse classroom, and prepares youth for careers and education after high school. Mortenson teaches a variety of courses, ranging from Animal Science to Exploring Robotics and Electronics. She teaches approximately 240 students in eighth through twelfth grade.
“Natasha demonstrated early in her tenure that she understands what it takes to build a strong agriculture program and FFA chapter,” said Mike Coquyt, Morris Area High School principal. “She puts students first, feeling as I do that the key to a positive educational experience is student involvement and student success.”
Students at Morris Area High School are highly involved in many areas, including acting as role models and mentors to other students at school, participating in FFA activities, and carrying out Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) projects. Members of the community act as a strong support system, volunteering as class speakers, contest team coaches, and by providing tours and student jobs. This wide variety of activities has allowed students to find a home in the agriculture program, especially for some students who may have previously struggled to find their places at school.
“I believe that all students have the ability to learn, but that they learn best in a progressive classroom that utilizes a variety of strategies to reach a particular student,” Mortenson said.
Melissa Smith and Ron Worth serve as instructors and advisors for the program and believe that agriscience education is undergoing an exciting transformation, allowing traditionally lecture-based science courses to become more hands-on. With this change, the program at Alpena has been able to offer courses which allow students to receive science credit for their work. Currently, Smith and Worth teach courses in Introduction to Agricultural Chemistry and Physics, Agricultural Equipment Management, Wildlife Science, Introduction to Forestry, Agricultural Biology, Agricultural Business Management, Advanced Forestry, and Advanced Agricultural Production. This variety allows students to obtain both knowledge and experiences that will prepare them for whatever career they choose.
“Students are able to apply the knowledge they learn in the classroom to jobs and activities outside of school,” Smith said. “This not only makes learning more interesting and meaningful to students, but helps develop the students’ abilities to use knowledge and skills in ‘real-world’ settings today and in the future.”
Smith and Worth both credit the Alpena FFA Alumni Chapter for their unwavering support in helping students. In a community heavily dependent upon natural resources and tourism, Alumni members provide students with opportunities to develop their supervised agricultural experience (SAE) programs, financial support for leadership development activities, and a wealth of knowledge. Through a strong curriculum and even stronger community support, the Alpena High School agricultural education program has been able to expand and be successful in many arenas.
Ross has been an instructor at McEwen High School since 1987. In 2005, due to the high demand by students for more agriculture classes, Greene was hired as the second agricultural instructor. Greene previously was the agriculture teacher at Lebanon High School for one year. With an agriculture department that consists of almost two-thirds of the student body, Ross and Greene are always busy ensuring their courses meet the needs of their students. In a community where forage and beef cattle production comprise the majority of the agricultural enterprises, it is important to them to expose students to many different agricultural experiences. Over the past several years, both teachers have worked diligently to acquire the facilities required to teach such a variety of classes. In 2009, a 60’ x 140’ livestock center was built at McEwen High School. This facility, outfitted with the latest livestock and equine handling equipment, is meant to provide students and community members with a place for hands-on learning. A state-of-the-art greenhouse is also currently under construction. These facilities, along with the existing greenhouses, aquaculture laboratory, small animal laboratory, agriculture shop, and computer lab, provide ample space for students to apply their classroom learning to real-world situations.
The McEwen FFA Chapter is the largest and most active student organization at McEwen High School. Some of their events include 16 different Career Development Events (CDE), Food for America, Partners in Active Learning Support (PALS), and a petting zoo for elementary school students, among others. Additionally, at the completion of each marking period, a cookout is conducted during the normal lunch period for students who appear on the honor roll to raise awareness of the agriculture program and recruit new members.
“The program is highly respected by the entire school system and throughout the county,” said Garry D. Elliott, agriculture teacher and FFA advisor at nearby Waverly Central High School in Waverly, Tenn. “Mr. Glenn Ross and Mr. Joe Greene worked tirelessly in building and maintaining high standards. With hard work for many years, they have gained the respect of students, fellow teachers, administrators, community and even state leaders.”
Outside of their busy classroom schedules, Ross and Greene are both active in professional development organizations. Ross served as the Tennessee Association of Agricultural Educators (TAAE) president in the 2008-2009 year and received the Tennessee Outstanding Agriculture Teacher Award in 2005. Greene received the NAAE Teachers Turn the Key Award in 2004.
SaraBeth Wanbaugh and E. Sherisa Nailor are the agricultural educators at Big Spring High School. Located in a community rich in agricultural tradition, the agriculture program offers seventeen different elective courses in a variety of areas in agriculture and natural resources. Wanbaugh and Nailor are continually working to update their curriculum and add new laboratory experiences to all of their courses. Additionally, they have added two dual-enrollment courses with the local community college; after enrolling in and completing the courses themselves. With every curriculum change, they ensure students are provided opportunities for experiential learning and real-world applications.
“Experiential learning is an integral part of student success in agricultural education as it provides students the opportunity to validate their classroom learning through real-life and hands-on experiences,” said Wanbaugh.
The partnerships that Wanbaugh and Nailor have formed with the local community allow students to gain these hands-on experiences through placements, job shadowing, and additional classroom instruction. Advanced agriculture courses require students to complete job shadowing experiences, while career exploration is a unit taught in every agriculture course offered in the school. These experiences allow students to explore their interests, develop personal skills, and learn how to apply their skills in real-world situations.
“The agriculture program and FFA chapter continue to thrive in our community not because of the strong agriculture component in our fertile valley but more so because of the partnerships our teacher leaders have developed with leaders throughout the region and state,” said Richard W. Fry, Superintendent of Big Spring School District.