Who/what inspired you to be an ag teacher? When I was in high school I didn’t want to be in the agriculture teacher or in the agricultural industry at all for a career. It wasn’t until I had the realization my participation in FFA and interactions within the community were preparing me to be an agriculture teacher. My agriscience teacher also inspired me to become an ag teacher by pushing me to do better and be a better person all around. Thanks, Dr. Kellie Claflin!
What motivates you to continue to teach ag? There are many forces which motivate me to continue teaching agriculture. The largest of them are my students. Starting my teaching career during a worldwide pandemic is hard enough, but my students are what keep me going every day. Their enthusiasm and drive to learn why or how something happens, is what lets me know I made the right decision to be an ag teacher. Another major component that motivates me to continue teaching agriculture are the other ag teachers in the profession. Whenever I talk to my colleagues, I love to exchange stories of what crazy thing happened in my classroom or school recently and hear that somethings haven’t changed a bit from when they started teaching. I also enjoy talking with them about how they grew their programs into the masterpieces they are today.
What advice do you have for new teachers to create an inclusive and safe environment for your students to be their true, authentic selves? Teaching in a school district with little diversity, I try to provide a variety of viewpoints in my classroom as often as possible. I may not directly build it into my lesson each day, and it could be sparked by something that someone said about the topic of the lesson. Another way I encourage authenticity in my classroom is to have an intentional conversation with each student once a week of how they are doing. This has helped me to better understand my students as a first year teacher and it shows them I care about them as a whole person, not just a student in my classroom.
One of the most important aspects I think and that I have to keep reminding myself about, is to have grace with my students. We are all learning to be better people every day and we will make mistakes along the way.
What advice do you have for new teachers about being their true and authentic selves in the classroom? Why is that so important? We always tell our students to be who they are, but sometimes we don’t do a great job at being who we truly are either. Also, being a new teacher I don’t have a lot of advice on this topic, but it is so important that you be you in the classroom. To be authentic and true with your students doesn’t mean that you have to tell them where you live and invite them over to your house. It could be as simple as asking your students to write down a question they have about your life outside of school on a post-it note and answer one question each day. This is something I did when I student-taught and continue to do as a teacher. It lets them get to know me better and helps them see me as a human as well. Being who you truly are takes courage to do sometimes, but can provide your classroom with the extra ‘something’ that other classrooms might not have for the students.
What is your advice to the ag ed profession to make ag ed a welcoming place for everyone? My advice to make the ag ed profession a more welcoming place for all, would be to talk with all sorts of people both within and outside of the profession. We need all voices and ideas represented at the table if we truly want the profession to thrive and grow.