This post is part of the February 2019 Teach Ag Times e-newsletter.
Meet Mr. Matt Eddy, agriculture teacher at Southeast Polk High School, in Iowa. Throughout his tenure as an agriculture teacher, Mr. Eddy has been able to travel the globe to learn about agriculture and network with his colleagues. His experiences have helped him grow as a professional and provide his students with unique opportunities and knowledge in the Southeast Polk ag program.
Q: How many states and countries have you visited because of opportunities through ag education?
A: I'm starting to hear that song in my head --- "I've been everywhere..." --- Let me see, Missouri, Kansas, South Dakota, Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, Georgia, North Carolina, Washington, Nevada, New York (City, but it counts), New Jersey, ... "Travel, I've had my share, Man."
Internationally, I have been fortunate to go to the Philippines, Malaysia, Hong Kong, South Africa, France, and will be adding China to the list in mid-March 2019 with our Southeast Polk FFA International Learning Opportunity. PIC - ILSSO crew at Table Mountain, Cape Town, SA.
A: I really enjoy visiting other states while teaching CASE curriculum institutes -- and having some time to have local ag teachers show me around their area is by far my favorite experience. I love to learn about what agriculture is like from the experiences of those who live there. South Africa was by far the best international agriculture learning opportunity due to the nature of the experience with National FFA's ILSSO - which is a tremendous program for students. PIC - South African farm raising apples all on irrigation.
Q: What has been the most beneficial trip you have taken in ag education? Why?
A: The long drive to Nicholasville, Kentucky for the inaugural/pilot CASE Animal Science curriculum institute in 2009. It was the beginning of my teaching renaissance and has been a large part of the catalyst for everything after. Plus, we had some great times there -- those that know, know.
Q: Do you prefer traveling alone for your own professional development, or with students for their various learning opportunities? Why?
A: Both are good, but for different reasons. Traveling on my own is sometimes better for self-reflection and allows me to learn at my pace. Bringing students to someplace presents a different challenge because you are the 'person in charge' and have to make group decisions instead of what you want to do. The nice part is that you get to experience places through your students' eyes and their excitement can remind you of why you fell in love with this profession in the first place.
Q: If you had to offer a new or aspiring ag teacher advice on traveling for their career in ag education, what would it be?
A: There will come a time when you will get opportunities -- sometimes they begin with leadership roles in NAAE, or escorting kids to National FFA Convention --- and when those experiences turn you in to the next thing and that opportunity comes along... TAKE IT. You and your students will be all the better because of them. By far, one of my favorite travel quotes:
"Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind."
– Anthony Bourdain