Catherine DiBenedetto

The Making of an AG Teacher

Blog Post created by Catherine DiBenedetto on Mar 23, 2011

    So.... you want to be an ag teacher? Of course you do! I can't think of a better way to spend my time and it's a career full of opportunities!  Truth is, if I think back to my ag class when I was in high school, I remember my ag teacher telling me what a great teacher I would be. My response....  NO WAY! At the time it was not even close on my radar of career choices. I had bigger and better plans. I wanted to work in a wholesale greenhouse operation and eventually open my own retail florist one day.

     Well.... here's how my story goes in the making of an AG teacher. My ag class was, of course, my favorite in high school. My first horticulture class helped me find my passion and realize my potential to be successful. I participated in Career Development Events that enhanced my skills in public speaking and the floriculture industry. In the classroom laboratory I was able to apply the science and math skills I learned but did not quite understand on the papers, in the books, and on the black boards in my other classes. In my ag class, I was learning by doing.  Seeing the application by doing the work and applying the science made the problems much easier to solve. It all seemed to make sense when there was a real world connection. My SOE Project ( I am dating myself, here!), provided me with the state star agribusiness award and the entrepreneurial skills that I would later need.

     After graduation, I attended the University of Delaware and obtained a BS in Plant Science. I was right on track as planned to land a job in the greenhouse industry. Mind you..... Mr. Walker, my ag teacher still advised that I become an ag teacher. At the time, I felt the need to fulfill my career plan and still had little interest in teaching. I landed my greenhouse management job only to find out that it was not exactly what I really wanted to do.  I moved around in the horticulture industry for about seven years. My ag advisor was never far and we always kept in touch. He would never fail to tell me, "we need good ag teachers". Eventually I decided I was tired of working for other people. I have such high expectations and I wasn't finding the career success and satisfaction that I had hoped for. I wrote a business plan, borrowed some money and sunk all of my savings into opening a retail florist. Now, I was going to make my dream come true. Well... needless to say, although successful, the floral industry is a tough business. Changing trends, increased expenses, lack of skilled employees and eight years working 60 plus hours a week without a vacation took a toll on me. It was again time to make a career change. I decided to try the wholesale floral business and worked for two years as a sales representative. It was an interesting experience, but I still was not satisfied. Next, a local garden center needed a manager and my resume fit their needs and it was another opportunity to finally reach my career goal. An offer that they could not refuse to purchase their land closed them a year after I began. Okay, okay, okay..... the words of my ag teacher kept ringing in the back of my head. "WE NEED GOOD AG TEACHERS!" So... more than fifteen years after I graduated from high school, I went back to my ag classroom and asked my ag teacher for help. Within two weeks of our meeting a teaching position opened. I remember his call, Mr. Walker said, "the perfect teaching position has opened it involves horticulture and floriculture, it is perfect for you, apply now!"  I listened to him this time and here I am! Do you believe in fate? I do. Everything happens for a reason. I finally found my true passion. Teaching AG has become the absolute best thing that has ever happened in my life. I love what I do everyday. I am able to use all of my horticulture and floriculture knowledge to help the youth of our future gain the 21st century employability skills that are needed to sustain and improve our global economy. I have greenhouses and a floriculture lab that I work in everyday. My students and I are creative and inquisitive together. We problem solve and have fun. The FFA Organization provides opportunities for travel and professional development. My passion for agriscience and the FFA Organization drives me to provide more for my students than was provided for myself. I am doing what I love and loving what I do, making a difference everyday.

     This year, I was awarded the honor of being my school district Teacher of the Year. I guess Mr. Walker was right. He saw something in me that I did not recognize. It seems ag teachers have a sixth sense for those kinds of things.  Remember.... "we need good ag teachers", make the choice and find your success and satisfaction in life. Life as an ag teacher is highly recommended!