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NAAE News & Notables

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Justin Heupel has stuck with plan A for more than two decades as he's moved from eastern to western Montana teaching agriculture.

"Plan A was to be an ag education teacher," Heupel said during an interview in a classroom at the H.E. Robinson Vocational Agricultural Center. "And if plan A didn't work out, plan B was something in ag industry to be able to utilize my degree."

This school year marks his 22nd year teaching and his 14th year with Kalispell Public Schools at the vo-ag center, where he currently teaches seniors and a sophomore class.

Heupel, 43, started out teaching five students in his first job prior to joining the largest school district in Flathead County.

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From the Guttenberg Press.


“Agriculture classes are more than just teaching, they include actual life experiences,” Amber Patterson, River Ridge alumna, stated. Patterson was a highly active member of the River Ridge FFA chapter, and is now studying at UW-River Falls to become an agriculture teacher.


Agriculture instructors are in great demand at the moment. At the end of the last school year, both River Ridge and Wauzeka-Steuben’s agriculture teachers departed from the districts. Agriculture and FFA are large parts of the rural schools, with 45 students participating to some degree on average each year at Wauzeka-Steuben and approximately 60 percent of the River Ridge High School student population taking part.


“Agriculture classes teach new ways to think about topics rather than a traditional math or English class. In general, they are very hands-on courses. These courses also do not just teach about agriculture, but also about leadership qualities, work ethic, common courtesy and so much more. In a world where projections show the world’s food supply will not be sufficient to meet the demands within our own life spans, it has never been more important to help educate those interested students to be the problems solvers of tomorrow,” Robert Sailer, Wauzeka-Steuben district administrator stated about the importance of agriculture in schools.


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From the Jackson County Floridian.

scurlock.jpgFlorida’s Agriscience Teacher of the Year is Cottondale High School’s Stan Scurlock.

Scurlock is the agricultural instructor and FFA Advisor at CHS.

The Florida Association of Agricultural Educators Agriscience Teacher of the Year award recognizes teachers who have inspired and enlightened their students through engaging and interactive lessons in the science of agriculture.

Click here for the full article.

From Capital Press


Shane Hagberg of We Repair Welders of Douglas County, Ore., discusses the details of welding with Oregon State University graduate student Abby Lohman. Hagberg helped instruct at a weeklong workshop for ag and industrial arts teachers at Sutherlin High School in Sutherlin, Oregon.SUTHERLIN, Ore. — Agriculture and industrial arts teachers recently went back to school to better prepare themselves to teach their incoming students.

Teachers from around Oregon and a couple from Washington state participated in a weeklong Shop Management Seminar in early July at Sutherlin High School. The purpose of the eight-hour-per-day, five-day workshop was for new or inexperienced teachers in metals or woods to learn how to effectively use new technology and how to teach career and technical education classes back in their school shops. A couple graduate students from Oregon State University also attended and participated.

The workshop was organized through Oregon State University and the Oregon Ag Teachers Association, and was facilitated by Sutherlin High teachers Wes Crawford in the metals shop and Josh Gary in the woods shop with help from local industry representatives and Umpqua Community College welding instructors.

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From Ag Daily


arizona.jpgArizona has been facing a shortage for several years of agriculture teachers that has officials concerned about its lingering impact on the industry that helps feed the nation.

“Absolutely,” the state faces a shortage of qualified and certified agriculture teachers, maintains Dr. Robert Torres of the University of Arizona.

And Arizona isn’t alone in the problem, one that has existed for several years around the nation, said Torres, Neely Family Endowed professor and department head who is the president-elect of the American Association for Agricultural Education.

The shortage of quality agriculture teachers impacts agricultural education. Schools may be unable to expand or add desired programs and in some cases are forced to close existing programs. This is particularly true for smaller, rural schools that find it more difficult to attract teachers. Or a school may experience a turnover of teachers that results in a lack of stability in a program and adversely impacts the quality of instruction agriculture students receive.

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From the Effingham Daily News


perkins.jpgBEECHER CITY — Humor and high energy must be key when teaching for more than three decades.

“I used to be the youngest teacher here, and now I'm not,” said Kevin Perkins. “I don't know what happened there.”

As the school year gears up this week, Perkins, an agriculture teacher and FFA adviser, is starting his 34th year of teaching, all except one year at Beecher City High School. He estimates he's taught about 1,200 students in Beecher City.

“I believe that as a teacher, I'm not their friend,” said Perkins. “I'm their teacher. I'm not their buddy. I wish them all well. There's a fine line.”

Perkins, 57, said when he started, new ag teachers were required to take on different perspectives outside of the classroom, so he interned at the Effingham Daily News, where he worked on the Farm Fair edition; and he worked at The Equity in the grain room for four-week-long stints.

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Article and photograph from the Rockingham Now.591b6c9641246.image.jpg

WENTWORTH Most visitors to Lynn Knight’s classroom at Rockingham County High are surprised to see a rock pool with large koi swimming in it.

It’s just part of the learning experience Knight’s students encounter in her classes.

Digging in dirt also is part of the curriculum. Other teaching tools in Knight’s classroom include hoes, rakes, a variety of other gardening tools, bags of fertilizer, and pots and pots of flowers and vegetables.

These are all part of the agriculture programs offered at Rockingham County and McMichael high schools.

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Article and photograph from the Illinois News Network.

A state agriculture education group is recruiting a new generation of Illinois agriculture teachers to fill a growing number of open positions.

According to Jennifer Waters, program adviser for Facilitating Coordination in Agricultural Education (FCAE), there are 325 agriculture programs in schools across the state. So far, 32 of 53 available agriculture education openings have been filled.

“We’re happy to say we’ve filled most of the positions, and we’ve got some great candidates coming in,” Waters said. “We’re excited for where we’re going.”

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Article and photograph from the Oneida Daily Dispatch.

MORRISVILLE, N.Y. >> Future agricultural leaders honed their skills on the Morrisville State College campus during this year’s New York State FFA Convention May 11-13.

More than 1,000 of the best and brightest high school students from across New York flocked to campus to gain hands-on experience in their future agricultural career fields during the event, which showcased some of the best MSC has to offer.

Hailey Mason, in her fifth year with FFA, credits the organization with inspiring her to pursue a career as an agriculture teacher. After visiting campus, she now hopes to fulfill that career path at Morrisville someday.

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14597_6642_1_thumb.jpegMACOMB, IL – Western Illinois University School of Agriculture Director Andy Baker has been named the recipient of the 2017 Illinois Teacher Mentor award.


Baker was named director of WIU's School of Agriculture in June 2014. He joined WIU's faculty in August 1999 and served as the school's interim director twice.


Baker will be presented with the award at the Illinois Association of Vocational Agriculture Teachers (IAVAT) conference June 20 in Bloomington, IL.


"I have been very blessed to work in a state that still believes that mentoring new professionals is a high priority," Baker said of his award. "I have mentored teachers on a variety of levels, from working with veteran teachers on their research projects to offering internship opportunities to high school students who are interested in pursuing teaching as a career."


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AR-170429886.jpgArticle and photograph from the Daily Inter Lake.

Agriculture teacher Brian Bay received the Montana Outstanding Agricultural Education Teacher Award from the Montana Association of Agricultural Education.

Brian Bay approaches teaching with laughter, joy and grace.

These are the principles he uses as a foundation to build relationships with students at the H.E. Vocational Agricultural Center in Kalispell Public Schools, where he’s taught for the past 15 years.

“Those three things, I think people don’t have enough of in the world,” Bay said.

When laughter, joy and grace are present in learning, Bay said that students — whether they are at the top of the class or at risk academically — are able to see that “we’re in this together and we’re all learning something new.”

Click here for the full article.



Kids don't learn unless they get a little dirty. That's the philosophy of the man who runs the career and technical education program at Monument Valley High School in Kayenta, Arizona, where students from the Navajo Nation get hands-on instruction in caring for animals.


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From PBS NewsHour.

PITTSYLVANIA CO., Va. (WDBJ7) Jessica Jones didn’t always think she would be a teacher.


"I had told my middle school ag teacher I was going to go to UVA to be a doctor. And he told me, no you're going to be an ag teacher. And I looked at him and I said, 'No I'm not.' He said, 'Yeah, you will. I see something in me that I see in you and I know that's going to happen,'" explained Jones.

That teacher was on to something. Jones went into Virginia Tech undecided, but eventually declared to be an agriculture education major.

Although Jones has the degrees and education to back up her knowledge in agriculture, not everyone who meets her, would peg her as an ag teacher.

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Step into one of Blake Berry’s agricultural education courses at Pendleton High School and you might think you’ve walked into the wrong classroom.

Instead of learning how to shoe a horse or fix a diesel engine, you’ll likely find students practicing speeches, working out mathematical equations or researching alternative energy sources. It’s all part of South Carolina’s agricultural education curriculum.

“These days, a job in agriculture can mean anything from production farming, which is rare, to extension work, landscape design, veterinary science and development of GPS models that reduce use of water and fertilizer,” explains Berry, who has been teaching ag ed at Pendleton High School since 2009. “They require specialized skills that come from hands-on work with plants and animals paired with classwork in geometry, chemistry and other hard-core sciences.”

It wasn’t all that long ago that high school students who chose to take Agricultural Education classes spent their class time learning skills that would help them run a farm. But as the number of farms began to decrease and farmers were asked again and again to produce more food on fewer acres of land, agriculture education began to expand beyond instruction in production-based agriculture to include agribusiness, horticulture and science-based classes.

Click here to read more about Berry and his program.

5_jacob ball website graphic.png

“Mr. Ball stands out among his peers for a variety of reasons,” says Shelly Hendricks, Principal at Nelson County High School (NCHS) in Bardstown, Kentucky. During his three years as an agriculture teacher at NCHS, Jacob Ball has made numerous investments in professional development, technology, and equipment to improve learning opportunities for his students. At a time when proving the value of CTE programs is crucial, Ball has become dual certified in Agriculture and Biology to offer students the option to take an agribiology course that allows students to receive biology credit within the agriculture program. Ball has also become certified to teach Curriculum for Agricultural Science Education (CASE), which is rooted in inquiry-based and science curriculum and has greatly increased the science rigor in his courses. He has applied for and received over $10,000 in various grants to purchase Google Chromebooks for the Agriculture Program, making his classroom the only full “one to one” technology classroom in the school. Ball puts in extra time serving as an advisor for the Nelson County FFA, leading the chapter to receive a Gold Rating every year at the state level and a National Three Star Chapter Rating in 2014. 

Outside of the classroom, Ball is committed to improving NCHS as a whole. He takes an active role in Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) to help improve educational practices and is a leader on the Program Review Committee at NCHS. Ball has streamlined the intensive, year-long process of gathering evidence across the school for program review by developing a school-wide sharing system through google docs, saving time and simplifying the process for fellow educators. Ball is active in Kentucky Association of Agricultural Educators, Kentucky ACTE and Kentucky Farm Bureau.

Click here for more information on all of the 2017 ACTE Award Winners and to watch a video about Ball and his accomplishments.