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
Shelia Schenk
Huntley Project School
Worden, MT

Shay Williams-Hopper

When the Schenk’s high school burned down in an act of arson, the school district faced the challenge of rebuilding. While it has been a struggle for the school to rebuild, Schenk is excited about the opportunities that the rebuilding process holds for Huntley Project School.

“I am excited about the rebuilding because the ag ed department expects to gain two new classrooms back and significant storage areas,” Schenk said.

This positivity has served her well in her position as agriculture teacher at Huntley Project School. She says that by staying positive, holding herself to the same high standards as she holds her students, and enjoying what she does, she has been able to maintain a positive classroom environment in which students can be comfortable. Schenk values the community atmosphere that she and her students create, crediting that community as essential for learning.

Schenk teaches around 90 students in her agriculture classes, which range in subject from Introduction to Agriculture to Natural Resources to Agricultural Communications and Leadership. Students have experienced success in their supervised agricultural experience (SAE) projects, in FFA at many levels, and in their collegiate careers.

“Her high expectations and her effort to continue to educate herself show our students the value of education,” Mark Wandle, Huntley Project High School principal, said. “These efforts impact students in a realistic and visual way.

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Region II
Cody Weber
Limon High School
Limon, Colorado

Gaea Wimmer

Weber came to Limon High School during a period of transition. The program had spent several years struggling, had a short closure, and then reopened thanks for a push from the community.  Weber came to the district with the desire to prove the importance and purpose of a successful agricultural education program. He has done just that. Weber currently teaches 30 students in a variety of areas, including agriculture business, aquaculture, and agriculture mechanics. By participating in conferences and constantly looking for avenues to improve student learning, he has developed the agriculture program at Limon in a way that provides students opportunities for success at every turn.

“My teaching philosophy is simple,” Weber said. “It is my strongest belief that, first and foremost, a teacher must care about student success, now and in their future.”

Weber relies heavily on the input and support of his advisory committee to guide the direction of his program. The committee, which consists of community members with a variety of experiences, helps him develop relevant curriculum, locate and create Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) programs for students, and search for grant opportunities to enhance students’ agricultural education experiences. Additionally, through the local FFA chapter, members sit on a variety of community boards and committees, helping them promote the value of agricultural education and FFA everywhere.

“To witness the transformation of the Limon Agriculture Education Program over the last three years has been amazing and would not have taken place without an outstanding instructor intent on conducting an outstanding program,” said Allen Charles, agriculture teacher at Flagler High School.

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Region III
Michael Miron
Forest Lake Area Schools
Forest Lake, MN

Adam Wehling

Only in his sixth year of teaching at Forest Lake High School, Miron has proven that a young teacher can make a difference in a big way. Miron teaches a variety of courses, ranging from Animal Health to Youth Leadership, at the Forest Lake High School campus, the Area Learning Center (ALC), and the district’s two middle schools. He strongly believes students should be at the center of any curricular model and designs his lessons to meet the needs of all youth, adapting to different learning styles and interests.

“Agricultural education offers a unique and innovative model to provide students with learning opportunities in broad academic topics through an integrated, applicable and experiential approach,” Miron said.

Miron works diligently to connect with different individuals and organizations in the community to enhance the learning experience of his students. His classroom often plays host to speakers from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and he works with groups like the Wildlife Science Center and the University of Minnesota Raptor Center to set up field trips, tours and internship opportunities for students. It is hands-on, relevant activities like these that have allowed the program to thrive, achieving recognition at the local, state and national level.

“If I had to explain Mike, I would talk about his compassion for his students and peers while explaining his unparalleled dedication to agricultural education,” Marcus Lewton, agriculture teacher at South Heart High School, said.

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Region IV
Jennifer Hawkins
Linn R-II High School
Linn, MO

Tim McDermott

Hawkins has taught at Linn R-II High School since 2007, having previously taught at Russellville High School for three years. In her short time at Russellville, Hawkins established an advisory committee, expanded the chapter’s involvement in community service, and successfully applied for a grant to purchase a 20-station computer lab. Since moving to Linn, Hawkins has continued her successful ways through her dedication to student success.

Hawkins believes the key to student success is positive self esteem, a desire to achieve, and confidence in themselves. As an agricultural educator, she is committed to providing a learning community that allows students to develop these qualities and challenges them to realize their greatest potential. By holding herself and students to the same high standards, Hawkins creates a peaceful and healthy environment for students to achieve individual success.

“Her willingness to help her students excel and her enthusiasm for vocational agriculture has been an asset to our school, our community and our youth,” said Bill White, Private Land Services Chief at the Missouri Department of Conservation in Jefferson City, Mo.

In addition to educating students, Hawkins believes it is important to make the community aware of agriculture and all aspects of life it encompasses. Through an extensive Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) program, more than 20 work experience projects are supported by community businesses. Not only does this provide students with necessary real-world experiences, it also exposes the community to the agriculture program and FFA chapter at Linn R-II High School. Additionally, a petting zoo for elementary students and their parents is hosted by the agriculture department each year. This increases community support, while also attracting students to join the agriculture program. These recruitment strategies have attracted 75percent of the freshman class to enroll in agriculture classes each year.

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Region V
Robby Vinzant
Lawrence County High School
Moulton, AL

Jason Chester

“Teaching has something to do with the teacher, a great deal to do with students, and everything to do with interactions,” Vinzant wrote in the beginning of his application for the Outstanding Young Member Award, and it is with this dedication to making an impact on students that he approaches his classroom.

Vinzant’s goals are to create an active learning environment, promote cross-curricular subjects and skills, encourage experiential learning with Supervised Agricultural Experiences (SAE), and always to promote agriculture and FFA. Vinzant teaches a variety of courses, ranging from Agricultural Mechanics to Horticulture, to over 200 students at Lawrence County High School. He recognizes that it can be challenging to make sure his classes are up-to-date and effective, but works to accomplish this by developing lessons that meet the needs and interests of many students.

Through creativity and drive, Vinzant has expanded the opportunities for his students and many of them have thrived as a result. His program has been the recipient of numerous grants, allowing his students to experience a full-scale greenhouse, hydroponic plant growing systems, and a state-of-the-art dust collection system in their woodshop. Outside of the classroom, partnerships with groups like Alacare Home Health and Hospice allow students to learn the value of community service and helping others in need. All of these experiences have culminated in student recognition at the local, state and national level, including being named one of the top 10 chapters in both Student Development and Community Development at the 2009 National FFA Convention.

“He is truly a role model and mentor for his students,” Tina Blankenship, whose daughter was in Vinzant’s class, said. “I am grateful that my daughter has had the opportunity to train and learn under his instruction.”

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Region VI
Rebecca Rose
John Bowne High School
Flushing, NY

Susan Sanger

Rose will tell you she was nervous when first beginning her teaching career at John Bowne High School in Flushing (Queens), N.Y. The position took her to a new state and a new school. However, with the support of departmental and school staff, Rose has become a valuable asset to her students, school, and colleagues across the state. She currently teaches sophomore career agriculture, junior animal science, and honors agriculture,  Additionally, Rose is an active advisor of the FFA chapter and serves on numerous committees, both at her school and with the New York FFA Association.

“Whether serving as a key FFA advisor, team advisor, officer advisor, activity leader, or simply a motivational force, she approaches all with great expertise, enthusiasm and insight,” Steve Perry, Assistant Pricipal-Agriculture at John Bowne High School, said.

Rose is a firm believer in ‘edu-tainment’: you, your lesson, or the content you’re teaching has to be the most exciting thing in the room if you want results. To accomplish this, she makes sure to vary all of her lessons to meet the needs and interest of all students. Kids in her classroom participate in everything from taking care of the school farm alpacas to conducting advanced research. The students’ accomplishments have been recognized at many levels, including the state and national FFA conventions.

“What our school system and our community needs are more people like Rebecca,” Sherrie Eichele, whose daughter is a student in Rose’s class, said. “This way, all of our children can have the proper influence, guidance, and caring needed to become successful adults.

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