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.

Region I Sue Poland, ID
Region II William Kirkpatrick, OK
Region III Jenifer Erb, WI
Region IV Don Wheeler, MI
Region V Damon Morgan, TN
Region VI Deb Seibert, PA

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Region I
Sue Poland
Cambridge High School
Cambridge, Idaho

Kevin Fochs

Poland has been the agriculture teacher at Cambridge High School for the past 17 years. Beyond her role in the classroom, however, she has taken time to serve as a mentor to her colleagues throughout the state. Poland has advised numerous student teachers and works with early-career instructors as they navigate their way through the challenges of their first few years in the classroom. Colleagues are grateful for Poland’s willingness to help them through any situation that may arise, whether that is coaching a FFA contest team, solving a disciplinary problem, or encouraging them that the next lesson will go better. She is always willing to make a phone call, visit another program, or send an e-mail to make sure that new teachers have positive experiences.

“As an instructor myself, I try hard to follow her example of training those who come after me,” Nathan Low, agriculture teacher at Payette High School, said. “Sue always meets her peers with a smile and, even in the tensest discussions, keeps the atmosphere professional.”

Poland is a past NAAE regional vice president who encourages her fellow teachers to develop partnerships with community members, get involved with professional organizations to continue learning, and ‘toot their own horn’ by publicizing the accomplishments of students wherever possible.

“I can’t say enough positive things about the mentoring that Sue Poland has provided, and I know that I am not alone,” Janna Volkers, agriculture teacher in Nampa, said. “Everyone in our state has had ‘Momma Sue’ guide them at some point in their career. I can only say ‘thank you’ to her.”

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Region II
William Kirkpatrick
Fox High School
Fox, Oklahoma

Tim Vanover

After 30 years as an agricultural educator, Kirkpatrick has gone back to his alma mater Fox High School.  Adding to the connection is the fact that his father was also an agriculture teacher there. Some might say it is in his blood to teach others, and he has demonstrated this not only in the classroom, but through his work mentoring fellow agricultural educators.

Kirkpatrick is always willing to share his wisdom with those around him. Whether it is answering a question about curriculum, helping someone decide what their program should look like, or helping create new Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE) programs for all local students, there is never a moment where he isn’t willing to lend a hand. He recognizes there will be struggles for all teachers, but there is no greater reward than working with students.

“Whether it is eighth grade, ag shop, or even meat sales, Mr. Kirkpatrick was always willing to answer questions or invite me into his program to see how he does everything,” said Michael Stuckey, agriculture teacher at Lone Grove High School, who nominated Kirkpatrick for the award.

“His advice not only has helped me grow and mature as an agricultural educator, but also has allowed me to grow my chapter,” said Connor Haines, Marlow FFA Chapter advisor. “In a way his advice and wisdom has helped my students as much or more than it has helped me.”

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Region III
Jenifer Erb
Waupaca High School
Waupaca, Wisconsin

Rachel Sauvola

Jenifer Erb has been teaching at Waupaca High School for 18 years, previously teaching in Minnesota for three years. During that time, Jenifer has mentored five student teachers, four Wisconsin Association of Agricultural Educators (WAAE) mentees, and four instructors who were once her students. Additionally, she serves as an unofficial mentor for more than ten agriculture teachers throughout Wisconsin, providing them with advice and information on FFA events and award applications when requested. Jenifer stays connected with her mentees through daily emails, weekly phone calls, and regular visits.

Erb has presented a workshop for Beginning Teachers In-service during a WAAE conference where she talked about goal setting, time management, and classroom supervision. She has also presented to fellow teachers on greenhouse construction, officer team building strategies, and award applications development.

Along with mentoring other teachers, Erb has continued to have a very successful agriculture program and FFA chapter at Waupaca High School. Her state winning applications, curriculum, scholarship forms, and recommendations are available to any teacher who requests them. She guides fellow teachers in developing lessons, edits applications, speeches, and resumes, and is always willing to help another chapter prepare for a contest or event. Her mentees, students, and fellow teachers credit her with their accomplishments and attempt to follow in her footsteps as a teacher, mentor, and friend.

“Ms. Erb was a tremendous mentor during my initial year of teaching in Weyauwega, as well as my first few years as an educator,” said Connie Peterson, Weyauwega-Fremont High School Agriscience teacher and FFA advisor. “Her experience and knowledge were tools I used on a daily basis for my resources, instruction, activities, and evaluation of students.”

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Region IV
Don Wheeler
Laker High School
Pigeon, Michigan

Scott Stone

Wheeler has taught agriscience and served as the FFA advisor at Laker High School for more than 30 years. In that time, he has been at the head of a diverse program, which includes courses in animal science, plant science, advanced science, and eighth grade agricultural science. His students participate in a variety of activities, including raising broiler chickens for the state broiler contest, competing in soil judging contests and career development events, and operating the school’s greenhouse.

Wheeler has mentored several student teachers and fellow agricultural education colleagues in his time at Laker High School. Victoria Yackle, Wheeler’s most recent student teacher, and the person who nominated him for the award, says he has a special way of teaching that focuses on hands-on learning. Yackle is grateful for the experiences Wheeler allowed her to have as a student teacher, ranging from coaching the state-winning FFA Agricultural Communications team for national competition to learning how to raise broiler chickens and meeting numerous community members. By working with Wheeler’s students, Yackle gained knowledge and learned teaching techniques to take back to her own classroom.

“Mr. Wheeler is a legend among agscience students and advisors around the state of Michigan for his larger-than-life personality, unmatched knowledge of agscience concepts, and uncanny ability to craft winners in virtually every FFA competition he has ever entered,” said Brian Keim, Laker Secondary Schools principal. “When it came time for Victoria to seek a mentor teacher for her student teaching experience, Mr. Wheeler was her obvious choice.”

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Region V
Damon Morgan
Morristown West High School
Morristown, Tennessee

John Blankenship

Morgan has been an agriculture teacher at Morristown West High School since 1971. In that time, he has worked with his co- teachers to develop an agriculture program that provides great opportunities for students, other teachers, the school, and community. With four areas of study from which to choose: natural resources, structures, horticulture systems, and horticulture production, students are able to find an area where they can excel.  Because the agriculture program is based on the agriculture in the community, students are also able to find local businesses where they can apply their classroom learning.

Through the development of his program, Morgan has been able to mentor many students, colleagues, and aspiring teachers. David Tripucka, a former srtudent, and the colleague who nominated him for the Teacher Mentor award, credits Morgan for his own decision to become an agriculture teacher. With Morgan’s guidance and inspiration, Tripucka chose a career in agricultural education and was given the opportunity to return to Morristown West High School to teach with Morgan.

“For the past fourteen years, I have had the pleasure of working side by side with Mr. Morgan as a fellow agriculture teacher,” said Tripucka. “I just would like one day to be half the teacher, overall person, and friend to students that he has been to me.”

In addition to Tripucka, Morgan has also mentored many student teachers, early-career teachers, and former students who also chose careers in agricultural education. He is currently mentoring a new teacher at Morristown West High School.

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Region VI
Deb Seibert
Manheim Central High School
Manheim, Pennsylvania

Krista Pontius

In her 25 years as the agricultural educator at Manheim Central High School, Seibert has made it a priority to be a valuable resource to other agriculture teachers in Lancaster County, especially those who are just beginning their teaching careers. She is always in communication with her colleagues to help solve curriculum, Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE), and FFA needs whenever they arise. By sharing her lesson plans and acting as a listening ear, Siebert has been a valued resource and mentor to many teachers locally and across the state.

“I am always amazed at her wealth of knowledge and look forward to the day when I may provide the same support to a new teacher,” said Stacy Dieffenbach, agricultural educator at Eastern Lebanon High School.

Seibert works to extend her assistance by being involved in numerous professional organizations related to agricultural education. She is the president of the Lancaster County Agriculture Educators Association and is active in both the Pennsylvania Association of Agricultural Educators (PAAE) and NAAE. At the core of all her activities is the drive to provide teachers with tools to help them be successful in the classroom. This consistently includes new ideas, shared lessons, and workshops to practice hands-on activities that can be used with students.

“‘Imitation is the highest form of flattery’ so goes the saying,” Clifford Day, State FFA Facilitator with the Pennsylvania Department of Education, quoted. “If that is true, then Deb Seibert deserves a great deal of flattery. Mrs. Seibert has served as the kind of role model that her students seek to emulate in their life’s work.”

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