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By Chance

Posted by Tiffany Morey Jan 16, 2013

I figured that it was time for me to share my story about how I became an ag teacher. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I never do things the easy or the "normal" way, and my journey to becoming an ag educator was no different. The Agricultural Educator's Creed begins with the line "I am an agricultural educator by choice and not by chance." In my case, I became an agricultural educator by taking a chance that turned out to be one of the best choices I have ever made. I never planned on becoming an ag teacher and wasn't involved in ag or FFA in high school because my school didn't have an ag program. In fact, had someone not suggested that I become an ag teacher, I most likely would be involved in a different profession instead of sitting here writing this blog post.


When I started at Cook College (the ag school at Rutgers), I had every intention of pursuing a career as an equine veterinarian. I took all the right classes, got all the right grades, got a student research position in my dream equine research lab (equine exercise physiology), and became involved with the right people and organizations. It seemed as if I was on track to get into vet school, and then in the middle of my junior year I became burnt out from all the stress of my hard classes and insane schedule and began to question if becoming and equine vet was really what I wanted to do. The thought of an additional 4 years of the stress and craziness of vet school was overwhelming, and as much as I loved my research, the funding for graduate fellowships was being cut left and right, which made the possibility of getting a PhD in equine science somewhat unlikely. I mentioned my feelings of confusion about my future to a good friend, and they made a comment along the lines of "You know, you should really think about becoming an ag teacher. You might really like it." They then went on to mention that Rutgers had a brand new 5 year Masters program for ag ed and needed people to apply for it.


I gave my friend's words some thought, and then went home and looked up the Ag Ed Masters Program. It seemed like a possibility and would allow me to use my Animal Science degree for something useful, so I decided to apply. My rationale was this: if I get in, this is what I was meant to do and I am going to do it and if I don't, I'll figure out something else I can do with my degree. The admission deadline for applications had passed, but since they needed people in the program, the dean made a special exception and said that if I could get my application in within 2 weeks, they would consider it. Those 2 weeks were crazy as I scrambled to complete my application, get my professors to write my letters of recommendation, and to take the GREs (which I had no time to prepare for). In the end, my efforts paid off and I was accepted into the Science Education Graduate Program at the Rutgers University Graduate School of Education.


My senior year was a crazy blur of 21 credit semesters as I finished up my Animal Science degree and began my coursework for my Masters. I managed to graduate with honors, and the following summer was filled with graduate coursework. That fall I began my student teaching practicum, and after a disastrous first student teaching placement (which I was removed from), I was seriously questioning if I had made the wrong decision by deciding to become an ag teacher.


Luckily, a guardian angel of an ag teacher came from out of nowhere and offered me a second chance at student teaching in his program. He turned out to be the best cooperating teacher I could have asked for, and under his tutelage and guidance I blossomed and got my confidence back. My student teaching experience in his program was a success, and wound up turning into the job I have today. He decided to retire at the same time I got my Masters, and the district hired me to take his place. I knew that I had some big shoes to fill because he was there for 35 years, but I was excited to take on the role of running the program by myself. We decided to transition the program to CASE when I took over and as they say, the rest was history and here I still am 3 years later. The program is bigger and better than ever, and we have plans to keep expanding and adding more CASE courses.


Believe me when I say becoming a teacher was never something that I planned to do. I have a mild case of Aspberger's Syndrome, which can make social situations and working with people very difficult for me at times. It is extremely hard for me to read people and unless they are very direct with me, I have a hard time understanding them and what they mean, need, or want. It's been a challenge that I've faced my entire life and has caused people to misinterpret me as rude and uncaring. Because of this, I never considered teaching as a profession because I felt that my Aspbergers would make it a bad fit for me. However, much to my surprise, it has never been an issue when working with my students. Unlike my own peers who often bullied me for my differences, my students have been nothing but accepting  and accommodating of me and my "oddities" and as long as they are able to be direct with me when asking questions, I am able to interpret their needs with no trouble. My Aspberger's has impacted my ability to work with adult learners, but it is something I am working on and I know I will be able to overcome to find success when working with them.


Had it not been for that conversation about my future with my friend back in college, I never would have become an ag teacher, and although that friend and I aren't as close as we used to be (ironically, they also became an ag teacher and might be reading this post), I will forever be grateful for their suggestion that I look into this great profession. In the end, what started out as a crazy chance of trying my hand at teaching ag has turned into a wonderful career choice. I can't imagine myself doing anything else, and I truly love what I do. Not only is every day different, but I find myself using what I learned through my research and my animal science coursework all the time. I get to work with amazing young people and help them get excited about ag and science. Until next time when I give you s'Morey, make sure that you continue to love what you do, and do what you love!



Or maybe you call it a different name.  Goodness knows I've used several more colorful metaphors and adjectives to describe it.


That gauntlet of January and February seems to be as daunting as most in the Ag Ed profession. I'm not sure how it got so busy, but I will say that we are pretty skilled at packing these two months full of fun. I doubt that my schedule is a-typical of the first two months in most ag departments.


Not only are State Degree's and proficiencies due the first of February, we have Pork Expo, Beef Expo, Legislative Symposium, and Sub-District LDE Contests and all the practicing that should be getting done.  Hopefully I can attend the National Ag Ed Summit via remote, bring kids and paperwork to Degree Review night, and our District Contest is the first weekend in March (So it probably doesn't count, right?).


I would like to schedule our annual tour to our greenhouse supplier - if I can finagle the administrators to allow it -- (budget cuts don'tcha know), our ALC cows are scheduled to have their first Preg Check to see how the AI went, calves to wean and sell in the next few weeks, and of course National FFA week activities and a couple Recruitment activities at the middle school. Plus teach class through all of that -- sometimes that seems like a vacation.

12-CASE Lab 08.JPG

I also need to put the chute back in the pasture since we (I) moved it to town to help with the county fair beef weigh-in, but I have to wait out the 3' snow drifts and now the mud from the thaw we had.  So now, I am waiting for a cold night for a freeze to allow me to sneak it back in before we can Preg Check.


Is it any wonder that spring break in March is a welcome site around here??


However you navigate the "Meat Grinder" - keep the faith and if you're a first year teacher -- it gets better.  Or at least I think so.


Follow the fun on Twitter: AgEd4ME

...and the kids barely knew what it was.


I'm not talking the document camera (Elmo).  I'm talking the keystone-distorted, outlet-on-a-cart, squealing-gerbil-wheel-when-the-fan-first-starts, overhead.  You know - the one your oldest college professor wrote copious amounts of notes in a script that proved "doctor handwriting" wasn't limited to the MD doctors.  Shoot, maybe you've been teaching long enough all your college classes went that way.  For some of the newer teachers, perhaps all you saw was death by PowerPoint.


When it comes to technology, I almost fall under the category of 'bleeding-edge':  use it as soon as it is available, first on the block with the gadget, etc.  I've built and used websites since my first year teaching; was the first teacher in the school to dive into Moodle, then Google Docs, then Edmodo; have had students make videos, radio broadcasts, blogs, databases, spreadsheets, about a million Word or Publisher docs, and even some giant posters for assignments, tests, or finals.


If you're like most teachers, your overhead is long gone.  Our school doesn't even stock the lamps or transparency rolls anymore.  Within the last few years I couldn't count the number of emails from teachers that said "I'm getting rid of my overhead, anybody want it?"  I'm guessing there weren't a lot of takers.


And I can relate.  I have a mounted computer projector with four different cords running through the ceiling and down the wall.  I have two laser printers, 34 computers, and large format ink printer around the room.


And, over against the wall, sits my overhead projector.  Because when a piece of paper (or even a transparency) does the job better, that's what I use.  And when technology works better, that's what we do.


Too many teachers fall into one of two categories:  category one - technology should replace everything I do, including teaching, grading, assignments, lessons, etc; or category two - technology is a fad and shall be shunned in this room.  There is no doubt that the current style of student is technology-centered; hence, the cell phone glued to their face. However, despite popular belief, the current teenager is not technology savvy.  In other words, while they are quite familiar with technology, they do not know how to use it productively.  How many times have you had kids say "I hate computers".  I hear it all the time.  Keep in mind their phone is not a computer to them.  Nor is their tablet.  It's the desktop running a word processor, or presentation software, or landscape design CAD program, that they don't like.


I even had one student ask to type their speech on their phone, claiming it was quicker that way.


So I propose a truce:  teach kids to use technology, and when something else works better, use it.  Sometimes, its a lot easier to have kids make an overhead transparency to present a bit of information in about 20 minutes than it is to spend two days having them make a three-slide PowerPoint about it.  But at the same time, teach them to use Microsoft Word properly.  Take them to PowerPoint school (and please please please explain why sounds and animations are not necessary).  Dive into a CAD program.  Explain what makes a website a reliable research source (hint:  it takes more than .org, kiddos).  You might be a techno-nerd, and you might be a techno-newbie.  But it is the world we live in, and agriculture is infusing technology as fast as anyone.


But at the end of the day, you're a teacher.  Teach with the best tool for the job, whether it has a power button or not.




How do you use technology?  What things do you do that work better with a pencil and paper?  Give ideas in the comments!

Happy New Year, friends!


I love January, because if we're getting snow days where I live, we'd be getting them this month. The only problem? Tomorrow's expected high is 70 degrees! I guess I won't be holding my breath . However, like so many of you, my job is not a "job", and I'm perfectly content to get up every morning and go to work.

Like most agriculture teachers in Middle Tennessee, my Januaries consist of training the Opening and Closing Ceremonies and Parliamentary Procedure teams. I’ve always loved the thrill and skill of Parli Pro, but I’ve found that each year my future chapter officers and active members for all four years are rooted in the students who take time two (or three!) times a week for more than a month at least to recite the reason why we gather together regularly as members. Whether or not they will be competitive has yet to be seen, but winning a contest is not nearly as important when we prepare for this particular contest. I'm reminded of how important this competition is when I look at my Student Advisor, President and Vice President (in the photo below, back in 2009!). Three seniors, three officers, all of whom relate much of what they know about public speaking, discipline and teamwork back to those afternoons so many years ago. It's odd to think that in a few months they'll be gone!


We have begun discussing cats in the Small Animal Care classes. This being my first year with the class, I’m having fun finding fun and useful information to cover the standards. Unfortunately I’m not able to have animals at school as of yet, but I’m also hopeful that we will be able to foster cats in the future. Those with success in that endeavor are welcomed to give some advice!

I’m also updating the Middle Tennessee FFA webpage frequently, as I had the honor of becoming the Middle Tennessee Advisors Chairman this past fall. For those who haven’t checked it out yet, I HIGHLY recommend signing up with Unlimited pages, customizable, unlimited photo and document uploads, and even a texting feature! I’d love some pointers for anyone who sees areas for improvement on mine!

On a personal note, I will soon have to change my school stationary and door sign to a new last name – I’m engaged! My fiancé Shane proposed to me in the mountains in Gatlinburg, Tennessee (if you’ve never been, it’s a great vacation spot!). All of my students have touched my heart with how much they care and are excited for me! My colors will involve certain, more muted versions of National Blue and Corn Gold, and there will more of my FFA family on the guest list than any other group!


What a view!


Soon-to-be Mr. & Mrs. Lumpkins

I often wondered if my choice of profession would make it difficult to start a family, so I'm glad to have found someone who understands the late nights, early mornings, and busy weekends of an agriculture teacher!

I even get to have one of my very best friends and fellow FFA advisors, Pam Farmer Walker, stand with me as a bridesmaid! Pam is a legend in Tennessee FFA: she was the first female State FFA President. More recently, she advised James Flatt, 2010-11 National Southern Region Vice President.


Me and Pam on an agriculture tour of the Mid-West in 2010

I'm heading out the door now to go home after staying late to discuss some things with my Parli Pro chairman, who has studied her behind off during Christmas Break. It's students like her that make it ok that we may not get any snow days anytime soon. Until the temps drop and I can post blogs in my pj's, we'll be chugging away at upcoming CDEs and preparing for National FFA Week. I hope to post soon on our plans and hear about great ideas from other fabulously talented FFA advisors out there.

New Year, New Goals

Posted by Tiffany Morey Jan 2, 2013

Happy New Year fellow ag teachers! I can't believe 2013 is here already, and that another year is over and a new one has just begun! I hope that everybody had a happy and healthy holiday with your families, and are back to school feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the second half of the school year. 2012 was a great year full of tremendous personal and professional growth, new opportunities to travel and meet other ag teachers, and success for my program and my students. However, I am excited for 2013 and the awesome things I know it is going to bring! I am not one to believe in new year's resolutions, and much prefer to set more long term goals that I know I can realistically accomplish. With that being said, here are some of my professional goals for 2013:


  • Continue to write this blog and update it as much as my schedule allows (same thing goes for  my Twitter account as well)
  • Add to my toolbox of techniques for working with adult learners/teaching teachers
  • Improve my communication  and presentation skills (especially when it comes to working with adult learners)
  • Get more involved with the Teach Ag Campaign to help promote this amazing profession and convince/influence young people to pursue it as a career
  • Apply for the Outstanding Young Member Award through both NAAE and ACTE
  • Attend the 2013 NAAE Conference in Las Vegas
  • Network more with other ag teachers in NJ
  • Help other ag science programs in my state and region to choose and implement the CASE curriculum
  • Coach my students to compete in the Veterinary Science CDE
  • Continue to set up SAEs for my students through the Dept. of Parks and Recreation
  • Establish at least 1 program affiliation agreement
  • Finally get a hydroponics system set up, running, and producing in my greenhouse
  • Continue to find new and creative/crazy ways to keep my students engaged and interested in what they are learning
  • Do what I love, and love what I do every single day!


Although the list may seem long, many of the items are things I've already started to work on, and way to see completed in 2013. Others are things I've put on the back burner and now it's time to get them done. I'm the type of person that likes and needs to set goals to keep things exciting in my professional life, so I am looking forward to seeing all of these things come to fruition!


I also have a goals for my personal life as well:


  • Talk less, listen more
  • Make more time for the people that matter and deserve it, and less for those that don't
  • Focus more on the positive, and less on the negative
  • Stand up for myself and believe in myself and my abilities more often
  • Complete my first triathlon
  • Run a sub 2:20:00 half marathon


What are some of your resolutions/goals for 2013? Feel free to leave them as a comment. Have a great week and look for s'Morey soon!



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