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Have you ever eaten salad off of a pipette? Have you ever met the Blues Brothers during a fancy dinner in the middle of a museum? Have you ever listened to bagpipes in the lobby of a beautiful old hotel? Let me explain...

 

The summer of 2013 was awesome for a lot of reasons, and my week in Maryland at the National Agriscience Teacher Ambassador Academy was one of them. This program single-handedly saved my teaching career and I'm thankful every day that I was part of it. Because of the Ambassador program, a few weeks ago I found myself lucky enough to be presenting at the National Science Teachers Association Convention in Chicago with some of my fellow ambassadors. During my flight, during my taxi ride to the hotel, and essentially during the entire trip I just kept reflecting on how amazingly blessed I was to be there. There had been a domino effect that lead me to being in an amazing hotel in downtown Chicago surrounded by fantastic people, and it was not lost on me... what if I had not applied for NATAA at all? Or had just forgotten? Or applied a year later?

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Forgive my country girl rambling, but Chicago is the biggest city I've ever been to and it kind of blew my mind. While Jeana and Christa shopped for shoes on Thursday, I just stood on the sidewalk and took in how tall the buildings were. (I also must be approachable and/or friendly-looking, because during that time, more than one person asked for directions.) It was pretty exciting to eat real Chicago-style deep dish pizza, since I basically consider pizza a food group.


After lunch the group walked around downtown and I got to talk more with Jessica Jones (who is the 2015 George Washington Carver Agriscience Teacher Award winner!). We talked about the fancy shopping in Chicago and I mentioned that I had never seen a pair of Louboutin shoes in person (the expensive ones with red on the bottom of the sole). A little while later, Jessica insisted we check out Neiman Marcus, but never mentioned why. Since I knew I wouldn't be able to afford anything, I was eager to just get in and get out. As we glided up the escalator, she led me to a corner of the third floor and... tons of beautiful Louboutin shoes! I had met Jessica just hours before and she had already helped me check something off my bucket list. Ag teachers are probably the friendliest people in the country.


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That night we were treated to an amazing dinner in the middle of the Museum of Science and Industry, where we enjoyed salad appetizers on a pipette (the dressing had to be squeezed from the pipette, how cool is that?) We also were able to celebrate the careers of Phyllis Buchanan and Peggy Vavalla, two women from DuPont who love teachers. (And the famous PJ of course, but luckily she isn't retiring soon!)


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The next day I was able to witness some of the other ambassadors in action, walk around the expo, and work the DuPont Challenge Booth with Jeana. I can't count how many times I said, "Have you heard of the DuPont Challenge?" (By the way, have you? ) It was refreshing to connect with so many science teachers who were eager for opportunities for their students. 


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I already mentioned that ag teachers are the friendliest people, but I also think they're the most fun. On Friday night we checked out a piano lounge, something I wouldn't have thought to do on my own. Loved it!


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On Saturday, I had the pleasure of helping David Black present a workshop on DuPont's Food Security Index and how teachers can utilize the information in their classroom. Coming from an agriculture perspective meant that my views could have clashed with the room of science teachers, but I thoroughly enjoyed the discussion and walked away with some new contacts who were interested in agriculture-based lessons focused on food security.


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That Saturday was St. Patrick's Day, and Chicago is well-known for their celebration. The river was turned green, the streets were filled with people wearing green, and there were even live bagpipe players in our hotel. On the way home, I was able to eat lunch with David, who was one of my Ambassador Lead Teachers. I have such a great admiration for him, and it was nice to get to know him even better. Also, thank goodness he was kind enough to wait 40 minutes in airport security while TSA kept checking me for some kind of chemical substance on my clothes (maybe I had gotten too close to the river and whatever they use to turn it green? )


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When I first set out to be an agriculture teacher, I never knew it would take me to places beyond the normal conventions and camps. Even during some busy weeks here back home preparing for state convention and a busy April, that trip to Chicago reminds me that I truly, 100%, without a doubt... do what I love, and love what I do.

 

Find me on Twitter and Instagram - @jlumpffa

 

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