Outstanding Teacher Awards

Enthusiastic, motivated, inspiring. these are just a few words that describe an Outstanding Teacher. The NAAE Outstanding Teacher Awards go to agriculture teachers that have kept a tradition of excellence in their program along with the inborn love for agriculture.

All Outstanding Teacher Award winner photos from 2012 NAAE Convention
(For news releases, see individual entries below)

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Region I
Larin Crossley
Preston High School
Preston, Idaho

news release

Crossley has been teaching agriculture for 19 years. Since he has been teaching at Preston High School, the program has seen increased student enrollment, added another full-time agriculture instructor, and moved into a new facility. Recently, the program also added courses in greenhouse and horticulture.

Crossley welcomes students of all abilities into his program. He believes it is his responsibility as a teacher, to provide a safe, effective learning environment in both the classroom and lab, so that his students feel comfortable and prepared to enjoy learning. Crossley motivates his students to think critically and develop their own solutions to problems through inquiry-based learning. His method of teaching allows students to take ownership in their learning, which in turn promotes higher-order thinking and retention.

"Teaching, for me, is about creating life-changing experiences for my students in the classroom and lab," said Crossley. "I love this profession."

Crossley is actively involved in the National Association of Agricultural Educators as well as the Idaho Vocational Agriculture Teachers Association, where he has served as the Southeast Idaho District Director for the past six years.

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Region II
Lance Jagers
Eads High School
Eads, Colorado

news release

Jagers has been teaching agriculture for 12 years. For the past five years, the agriculture program has held steady at 50 students, which is 80to 90 percent of the student population at the school. Since Jagers came to Eads High School, the program has incorporated contemporary agriculture into the previously traditional agriculture curriculum in order to ensure students have a well-rounded knowledge of agriculture. The school has also implemented career pathways in agriculture, which allows students to choose what agriculture courses are most important to them. Career pathways have helped students to be more focused and engaged in the classroom.

Jagers is an advocate for experiential learning. His students learn by applying basic information to real-life situations. Jagers believes this form of teaching keeps student in his classes and guides them into making wise career decisions.

"The agriculture education classroom and laboratory is one of the few places left in public education where students can use the knowledge they have gained and implement it directly into their own lives," said Jagers.

Jagers currently serves as the president of the Colorado Vocational Agriculture Teachers Organization. He is actively involved in the National Association of Agricultural Educators as well as the Association for Career and Technical Education. He is also working to develop a variety of workshops for agriculture teachers in Colorado.

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Region III
Adam Wehling
Mondovi High School
Mondovi, Wisconsin

news release

Wehling has been teaching agriculture at Mondovi High School since 2007. As a new teacher, he took it upon himself to update and modernize Mondovi's entire agriculture program, developing a new science-based curriculum that focuses on SAE programs and career skills. Wehling made it his goal to have the agriculture program train students in both employability and life skills. The new program emphasizes the scientific process in agriculture and serves over 300 students.

Upon completion of his Masters of Science in Agricultural Education degree in 2009, Wehling was again able to expand his curriculum in order to appeal to more students. His Greenhouse/Plants and Landscaping, Veterinary Science, and Food Science courses now all qualify for high school science credits. Additionally, his Greenhouse/Plants and Landscaping class is offered as a three-credit hour class with Chippewa Valley Technical College.

Wehling believes his passion and energy in the classroom empowers his students to believe in themselves. He uses a hands-on, learning by doing approach in order to help his students gain a better insight into the curriculum. He encourages his students to learn from their mistakes in order to improve in the classroom and in their own lives.

"I will always try to selflessly lead with an honest, fair and enthusiastic attitude while continuing to challenge myself by growing personally and professionally," said Wehling.

Wehling serves as the Mondovi High School coordinator for Certified Work Experience, Perkins/Vocational Education Enrollment Reporting System, Youth Apprenticeship, and Employability Skills certification. He is currently an active member of the Wisconsin Association of Agricultural Educators and NAAE.

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Region IV
Dennis Riethman
Coldwater Exempted Village Schools
Coldwater, Ohio

news release

Tim Larrick

Riethman has been teaching agriculture for 33 years at Coldwater. Over the years Riethman has seen many changes occur within his agriscience program. When he first took the job in this rural agricultural community, it was a one teacher program focused on production agriculture. With the addition of shop and greenhouse facilities and three more agriculture teachers, class offerings have grown to include Plant and Animal Sciences, Mechanical Technology, and a Veterinary Technician program. Riethman is currently responsible for teaching horticulture for juniors and seniors.

"Effective classroom and laboratory instruction requires constant reflection and evaluation of the curriculum followed with necessary adjustments to meet the needs of the students and the agriculture workforce," said Riethman.

In order to offer students the best information and teach them the most current skills, Riethman has worked with the Horticultural Sciences program at Clark State Community College to develop a Tech Prep agreement. Juniors and seniors who have demonstrated exemplary work and competency in their horticulture classes at Coldwater are able to earn Tech Prep credits, which count as college credits at Clark State.

Riethman has also partnered with the Mercer County Soil and Water Conservation District to participate in the Wetland Plants Adoption Project. Over 300 wetland plants from Grand Lake are wintered over in the school greenhouse. Horticulture students conduct water quality, nutrient uptake, and plant growth tests. Data is then prepared and shared with the conservation district and applicable farm groups. Currently, Riethman is working with Findlay University Environmental Science Department to share the students' wetland plant research studies.
"Denny's management strategies are effective, motivating and insightful," said Jack Mescher, co-teacher at Coldwater Exempted Village Schools.  "He gives 100 percent of his abilities and knowledge to solving obstacles, creating learning atmospheres, and invoking critical thinking processes."

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Region V
Bill Waldrep
Mary Persons High School
Forsyth, Georgia

news release

Douglas Latta

Waldrep has been teaching agriculture for 20 years; nine of those years have been at Mary Persons High School. Waldrep is the only agriculture instructor at Mary Persons and teaches Basic Agricultural Science, Plant Science, Animal Science, Forestry, and Agricultural Mechanics.

Waldrep believes his role as an agricultural educator is to provide an environment where each student can be successful. To accomplish this, Waldrep balances classroom and laboratory instruction, FFA activities, and Supervised Agricultural Experience projects. Agriculture is one of the largest industries in Monroe County, and SAE projects give students the opportunity to explore their agricultural interests through jobs or internships, raising animals, building items, or growing crops. Waldrep also believes instilling students with leadership skills will better prepare them for the future, and has his students present their projects to the class regularly to work on their leadership and public speaking skills.

Waldrep uses differentiated instructional techniques to help all students succeed. Upon his hire at Mary Persons High School, Waldrep was asked to help improve students' science graduation test scores. This year, 100 percent of Waldrep's students passed the exam. In his plant science course, 22 students have received the junior certification with the Georgia Green Industry Association. The GGIA works to enhance the economic and environmental benefits of Georgia horticulture. Students have successfully put this certification to use in community landscaping projects and their FFA land judging teams.

Recently, Waldrep developed metalworking lessons for the Georgia Agricultural Education Curriculum which are used by teachers across the state. He produced lessons in Oxygen-Acetylene welding and cutting techniques and wire welding. Waldrep was also on the committee to establish educational performance standards for Agricultural Mechanics I, II, and III. This year, the Mary Persons FFA Agricultural Mechanics team, coached by Waldrep, won the State FFA Agricultural Mechanics contest and will represent Georgia at the National FFA Convention.

"The first two lines of the FFA Motto are ‘Learning to Do, Doing to Learn'…The hands-on approach compliments the education that students are receiving in their academic classes," said Waldrep.

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Region VI
Tina Miner-James
Walton Central School
Walton, New York

news release

Tara Berescik

Miner-James has been teaching agriculture for 16 years. She has taught at Walton Central School for ten years and is the only agricultural educator in the Career and Technical Education department at Walton Central. Upon her hire in 2002, Miner-James set out to renovate the agricultural science classes. After many hours and hard work, in 2008, the agriscience courses were not only updated, the Walton Central School's program became Career and Technical Education certified by the state of New York.

Miner-James believes that high quality agricultural education can guarantee America's future in the global economy. She delivers this through innovative integration of mathematics, science, and literacy skills into agriscience lessons. These lessons are designed to be challenging, hands-on, have life-applicable content, activities and projects. Miner-James even works with other teachers at Walton Central to create lessons and units that are cross-curricular. For example, she works with the physics teacher to teach a unit on hydraulics.

Miner-James' students have done extensive work with the Stroud Water Research Center Leaf Pack research and the Stream Watch initiative through the local Catskill Center. Students use Leaf Pack experiment kits to take samples of the Delaware River and examine the aquatic insects and the chemical content of the stream. The data is then entered on the Stroud Water Research Center's website and is used in Stroud's research for New York state. Miner-James has also teamed up with the Walton Youth Farm Project, a Farm-to-School initiative, and Tyrebach Farms to obtain $18,000 in grants to build a greenhouse, a student operated organic vegetable farm, and community gardens.

"When students pull together rigorous and relevant academics, career information, and workplace skills they will be prepared for lifelong learning," said Miner-James.

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