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.

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

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Region I
Todd Rightmire
Mt. Baker High School
Deming, Washington

news release

Rightmire has been teaching agriculture at Mt. Baker High School since 1993. Over the course of his career, he has been a valuable resource for many teachers in the state of Washington. In 2006, he hosted an Animal Science Institute for agriculture teachers across the state. This full-day learning opportunity helped 18 agriculture teachers learn different ways to incorporate animal science in the classroom to meet the Washington Assessment of Student Learning State Science Test requirements. Rightmire presented numerous laboratory projects that can be used to teach students about the scientific method as well as animal science. Rightmire has also offered components from that institute at two Washington Association of Agricultural Educators conferences in order to reach even more teachers.

"Todd is looked upon as an educated leader amongst his peers and teaching professionals," said Rhonda Juergens, agriscience instructor at Nooksack Valley High School. "With his passion for agriculture and teaching students, he is truly one of the elite teachers and mentors in the nation. He sets an example of what all teachers should strive for in agricultural education."

Rightmire has served as the FFA Superintendent at the Northwest Washington Fair for the past 18 years. He uses his experience and knowledge to advise students and teachers in topics that span from career development events to breeding and raising market hogs. He has helped many Whatcom County students with senior projects involving forestry, swine production, and artificial insemination.

"Students have learned a great deal of valuable knowledge from Todd and have walked away from these projects with a great deal of respect for him, as he donated countless hours to their projects," said Juergens.

Rightmire is actively involved in both the WAAE and the NAAE. This year, he was in charge of 12 different tours and professional development opportunities for teachers at the WAAE Conference in Bellingham, Wash. He has also attended three NAAE conventions.

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Region II
Rodney Arthur
Sequoyah Public Schools
Claremore, Oklahoma

news release

Arthur has been teaching agriculture in Oklahoma for 21 years. He began his teaching career at Delaware Public Schools in 1991. In 1993, he was recruited by Claremore Public Schools to take over an agriculture program in one of the larger Oklahoma school districts. In 2004, Arthur was given the opportunity to start a new agriculture program at Sequoyah Public Schools. Within the first three years Arthur's leadership enabled the program to add another agriculture teacher to the department. The program currently serves eighth through twelfth grades and offers classes in animal science, natural resources, agricultural mechanics power and technology, agriscience, and agriculture orientation. The focus of the program is to promote career exploration and leadership development through career development events.

Over the past several years, Rodney has implemented 14 state winning CDE teams, 12 state qualifying public speakers, and three state (FFA) officer candidates, as well as numerous students who continue their higher education in the field of agriculture and many interns hired as agricultural education instructors across the state of Oklahoma and surrounding states," said Keena Young, agriculture teacher at Sequoyah Public Schools.

Throughout his career, Arthur has been a mentor for eight student teachers from Oklahoma State University and continues to offer them guidance and advice as they develop as teachers and leaders of their own programs. He also provides guidance and resources for first-year agriculture teachers in Oklahoma. He stresses the importance of developing strong relationships with agricultural professionals in the community to all agriculture teachers. His contacts with livestock breeders, businesses, loan officers, and other professionals not only provide valuable resources for his classroom, but also for his students' Supervised Agricultural Experience programs.

"Rodney is quick to provide guidance to those who ask or sometimes to those who do not ask," said Young. "He understands a mentor's role in providing the best chance for young professionals having a good experience and becoming a career teacher."

Arthur stresses the importance of professional organizations with everyone he mentors. He is an active member of the Oklahoma Agricultural Education Teachers Association and the NAAE, serving on the state association board as president this year.

"I highly respect Rodney for his efforts and his dedication to being an outstanding role model, mentor, and teacher who leads by example," said Young.

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Region III
Tim Larson
Medford High School
Medford, Minnesota

news release

Larson has taught agriculture for 29 years. During his career, he has taught at seven different programs in both Minnesota and Iowa. In 2000, when Larson was hired as the agriculture teacher at Medford High School, he took on the big responsibility of rebuilding a program that had been dormant for ten years. His hard work and determination helped the program grow and eventually add another teacher in 2007. In 2009, the program was recognized as the Minnesota Association of Agricultural Educators Middle School/Secondary Program of the Year. Currently, over 270 of the 400 students at the high school are enrolled in the agriculture program.

Throughout his career, Larson has served as a resource for many teachers and students. He is always available to mentor teachers about classroom management, projects, and FFA events. He spends countless hours helping students prepare their fair projects, visiting Supervised Agricultural Experience programs, and training teams for FFA events. Three of his former students are now pursuing agricultural education due to his dedication and guidance.

"Mr. Larson is a teacher that students can talk to and know that he cares and is interested. That is one of the many things that makes the Medford agriculture program such a success," said Kristin Spinler, former student of Larson. "Besides challenging students to try new things and being an ear to listen, he has the ability to help students see their full potential."

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Region IV
Alan Merriman
Bluffs High School
Bluffs, Illinois

news release

Rachel Sauvola

Merriman taught agricultural sciences for 31 years. He completed his twenty-first year at Bluffs High School this spring and officially retired in July. Over those years, he has had a great impact on the community and has influenced many students' lives. One of those former students is Bryan Barnett, who nominated Merriman for the Teacher Mentor award. Barnett was first mentored by Merriman as a student, then later as a new agriculture teacher. Merriman provided Barnett with feedback and assistance in bettering his agriculture program at Winchester High School, advised him about how to connect with members of the community, and encouraged him to invest in professional development as a teacher through professional organizations and workshops.

"Over the course of four years Mr. Merriman mentored me in many different situations but none bigger than the time he mentored me on what major to pick in college," said Barnett. "Through his mentoring, I chose to become an ag teacher and to this day I still consider him to be my greatest asset of knowledge and wisdom whenever I need help."

Barnett is not alone. Over the course of his career, Merriman has mentored hundreds of people – students and new teachers alike. Merriman has helped 98 students obtain their State FFA Degree, 25 of who continued on to get their American FFA Degrees - the highest degree attainable in FFA. Four of Merriman's students have gone on to become agricultural educators themselves. Merriman has also been a supervising teacher for three student teachers and was a mentor in the state's agricultural education mentoring program, which helps new teachers connect with seasoned teachers for advice and support.

"I had the privilege of having three sons which were under Alan's leadership in agriculture classes and FFA," said Glenn Vortman, Senior Vice President of the Bank of Bluffs, and parent of agriculture students. "Under Alan's leadership he taught his students good moral values which will be with them the rest of their lives."

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Region V
Bob Melton
Cannon County High School
Woodbury, Tennessee

news release

Scott Stone

Melton has been an agriculture teacher for 38 years, and an agriculture teacher at Cannon County High School for 34 of those years. During that time, Melton has mentored over 50 student teachers. Even after his student teachers have become agricultural educators, Melton maintains contact with them and makes sure everything is going well.

He also regularly provides lesson plans, media materials, and gives presentations on agriscience topics at the Tennessee Vocational Agriculture Teachers Association Summer Conference. Some of these presentations have included the unique topics that Melton teaches in his classroom including biodiesel production, worm farming, and canoeing/leadership training. Melton even helped Middle Tennessee State University develop their biodiesel operation and recommended which equipment to buy. MTSU is now making biodiesel with vegetable oil from their cafeterias. Melton's livestock and horticulture classes also hydroponically grow wheat fodder. The food value and protein are much higher than alfalfa, and the greenhouse can produce up to 1,000 pounds of wheat fodder per day.

This is an exciting year for the Cannon County High School's agriculture program. After many years of hard work, the program received $200,000 in grants to develop a livestock learning center at the school. The students will take responsibility for daily operations of the facilities, which include a show ring, kitchen, and 28 animal pens.

"After performing my student teaching under Mr. Melton, I realized that teaching was my true calling," said Shannon Ford, one of Melton's former student teachers. "As I watched him interact with his students, it was evident that a teacher really could make a difference."


"His laid back approach and caring attitude is what draws the young as well as the experienced teachers to him," said Courtney Nichols, former agriculture student and now co-teacher at Cannon County High School. 

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

news release

John Blankenship

Miner-James has been an agriculture teacher for 16 years. She not only has been a mentor for all of her agriscience students, but three student teachers and three new agriculture teachers from across the state as well. Miner-James also helps teachers looking to make their agriculture programs Career and Technical Education certified in the state of New York. One of these teachers is Crystal Aukema, who nominated Miner-James for the Teacher Mentor award. Miner-James has spent countless hours and answered many "S.O.S phone calls," providing Aukema with support for her new program.

"Tina has helped me grow professionally and personally in so many ways," said Aukema

Upon Aukema's hire at the Oxford Academy and Central School, Miner-James guided and assisted her in overhauling the agriculture program by updating curriculum and reorganizing the agriculture science facilities. Under Miner-James' seasoned leadership, Aukema now has a CTE certified program in horticulture, zoology, natural resource management, and agriculture science. Miner-James also helped Aukema write and apply for grants, specifically the Live to Serve and Food For All grants. This year both Aukema and Miner-James have received $5,500 each in grant funding for community projects.

"Tina's enthusiasm and dedication to agricultural education and the profession is second to none," said Shari Lighthall, the Senior Professional Development Specialist at the New York State Agricultural Outreach and Education. "Through Tina's leadership and service she will continue to have a profound effect on her students, colleagues, and agricultural community."

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