I began teaching in Hagerman as the agricultural education teacher January 10, 2000. I was fresh out of college, with the experience of only my State FFA Vice President and President years and a strong ag program while I was in high school, behind me. I was called by Mr. Steven Starkey, my former biology teacher and later high school principal of Artesia High School (16 miles south of Hagerman), mentioning the possibility of building an Ag program in Hagerman. Mr. Starkey said that the program had been defunct for three years, as the prior administration said there was a lack of interest in the program. As a college student, I dreamed of one day going to a program that was in need of major repair and testing my strength and knowledge by seeing if I could accomplish the huge task; little did I know I would have the opportunity so quickly. When I arrived, I was given an industrial arts schedule, focusing on welding and woodworking, with one beginning Ag class of six students. The kids that were in my classes were students that had little to no pride in the public school system. For years students had been allowed to leave this class when they wanted, smoke in the shop, dip and spit in the shop, and even on occasion the kids mentioned they would consume alcohol in the shop. There had been little to no classroom instruction. The struggles were even more than I expected, but, from day one, I had tremendous support from my administration, fellow teachers, and community. I spent most of my first semester cleaning up the three inches of dirt on the shop floor, cleaning up all the cigarette butts left on the floor, throwing away the beer bottle caps, and repairing any salvageable pieces of shop equipment I could find. Little by little I began to recruit kids into the program where after the first full year we increased our membership to 18 members. The students and I traveled around the state to various competitions and activities, witnessing the awesome things FFA had to offer students. We began competing in various Career Development Events building the excitement among the students and within the end of our second year we had fifty members in our FFA Chapter. I was impressed by the number and talent of the students wanting to join our program. We were climbing the ladder as we attracted some of the elite students of our school. On the competition level, our students began winning some contests and representing our school to the best of their abilities. By the conclusion of the third year we had surpassed the previous record number of FFA members in the 68 years of the program. We had also just moved into our new shop for which I was given permission to purchase all new equipment. Today, we have increased our FFA membership to 70 FFA members and nearing 100 students in the Ag program. We also now have two ag teachers in our department. What the previous administration called “lack of interest” has turned to be one of the main interests in our little community. I have truly been blessed!
So this brings up the puzzling question: Work or Hobby? Today, 11 years later, I truly do not feel that I go to work on a dialy basis. I honestly feel that I have a daily opportunity to work while doing my hobby. After the initial foundation work was set into place when I first started, the career road has been nothing but amazing. Today I sit here writing reflecting on the joys of my job and reflecting on how blessed I am to have the career I have. It is simply amazing to witness kids grow in their personal development. I highly recommend the pursuit of a career as an Ag teacher!