Who/what inspired you to be an ag teacher? It is a combination of a lot of experiences that influence me to become an ag teacher. Teaching others was natural for me because I learned all of my “student teaching” from my mother, who taught Business/Typing for 37 years. I spent my afternoons playing “schoolhouse” with friends and I would always play the role of the teacher, so I was teaching before I knew this would be my career. My love for agriculture started during the many summers of running in cow pastures, shucking corn, shelling peas, and spending time with family and friends in rural North Carolina and Alabama. This love of the agriculture lifestyle sparked a love for stray animals and gardening in me. My dream was to attend veterinarian college, but life took control and I became agriculture teacher in 1998.
What motivates you to continue to teach ag? My motivation is to expose African American students to agricultural careers and connect their knowledge and leadership skills in agricultural careers. Teaching at an engineering and environmental science school, students do not know how agriculture is connected to all pathways offered. I want to expose all students to everything agriculture-related. I want my students to see African American agriculture leaders are in various roles in the agriculture industry.
What advice do you have for new teachers to create an inclusive and safe environment for your students to be their true, authentic selves? My advice is to know your students! Create a FFAmily within your classrooms! It is important because it helps eliminate stereotypical biases and attitudes towards others. Make sure that everyone is comfortable and give everyone space to showcase their talents. Students should have a voice and teachers should give them the opportunity, in a respectful manner, to communicate their issues with others. All teachers should have a positive environment for all students and accommodate different student learning styles. A safe, positive classroom enhances a productive and nurturing environment.
What advice do you have for new teachers about being their true and authentic selves in the classroom? Why is that so important? In order to gain trust from their students, a teacher must have a connection with their students and show vulnerability. Building a solid foundation with students will develop a solid learning environment where everyone will be successful. We, as teachers, must be relatable and allow our experiences to assist with guiding students to be their best. Students only feel secure when their teachers are open and truthful about themselves.
What is your advice to the ag ed profession to make ag ed a welcoming place for everyone? The agricultural education profession should be open to change. This is not my grandfather’s agriculture program anymore! Our profession has evolved into a remarkably diverse, innovative, and technologically-advanced program that has extended more opportunities and careers for students. We need the expertise from all those with different backgrounds that can deliver knowledge of these new agriculture advancements. We need to prepare a multitude of students to work in production, biotechnology, engineering, entrepreneurial endeavors, and mentoring programs. Students need to see a more diverse group of educators who value change within agricultural education and who will stand solid in their part in this inspiring task!