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markway-forblog.jpgIt isn't always clear what we want to do later in life, but sometimes we're presented with an opportunity that helps set our path. For Bethany Markway, the National Teach Ag Campaign helped do just that.


Before getting involved in agriculture in high school, Bethany knew she wanted to be a teacher, but teaching agriculture never crossed her mind.  As she became more involved in FFA, she saw firsthand how her own agriculture teacher impacted the lives of his students, and the spark to pursue a career in agricultural education was born.


By the time she started college at Missouri State University in Springfield, Bethany's perception of agriculture had completely changed. Before high school, she was not interested in being active in agricultural industry. Starting college, she knew she wanted to make an impact through agriculture in some way. She continued her FFA involvement through MSU's collegiate chapter, and also got involved in Agriculture Future of America, another agriculture leadership organization.


At an AFA conference, Bethany was introduced to the National Teach Ag Campaign, and was eventually selected to participate in the Teach Ag in D.C. program. This program paired Bethany with a mentor teacher and together they developed an agriculture lesson that she later presented at a Washington, D.C. school. Aaron Geiman, Bethany's mentor teacher shared his passion for agricultural education was evident and showed Bethany how a passionate teacher can impact the classroom. He also introduced Bethany to the CASE curriculum and helped her look at lesson plans and curriculum from a new perspective.

 

"He stressed the importance of hands on learning and I try to implement that model in every one of my lessons. He showed me different ways to look at lesson plans that I would have never thought of," she said.


After her experience with the Teach Ag in D.C. program, Bethany was selected to serve as a Teach Ag Ambassador during the 2012 National FFA Convention in Indianapolis. As an ambassador, Bethany developed and presented an agriculture literacy lesson to middle school students in Indianapolis, talked with students who visited the Teach Ag booth at the career show about considering a career as an agricultural educator, and helped conduct student workshops about teaching agriculture.

 

As she prepares to teach agriculture this fall at the Technology and Career Center in Lebanon, Mo., Bethany contributes her excitement to her positive experience with the National Teach Ag Campaign.      


"The Teach Ag programs were life changing for me. It was the best experience I have had," she said.  Even though the school year hasn't started yet, she's already taken students to FFA camp, and is working to get her curriculum in place. The skills and experiences Bethany picked up through her involvement with the National Teach Ag program have helped give her ideas for setting the direction of her agriculture program and being an effective agriculture teacher.

 

"I see so much potential in these students; it makes me so excited for the upcoming year." she said. I would recommend the Teach Ag programs to anyone and everyone. If educators can make an impact on someone's life, then that person will be motivated to go and impact someone else's life. That is what ag teachers do every day."


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First, I just want to say, WOW! I am humbled by the energy and willingness to help agricultural education and our programs succeed that I felt from the National FFA Alumni Development Conference in Green Bay Wisconsin. How exciting to see their focus on what they can do to help with teacher recruitment and retention issues that we are facing in agricultural education. The NAAE Board and the Alumni Council are moving forward to strengthen our forces and we look into collaborating on joint Regional Conferences in the future. Be on the lookout for exciting news on this venture! Many thanks to the Wisconsin FFA Alumni members who put together fantastic tours and experiences for the attendees!


I was honored to attend the Region I, III and IV conferences this year. I know Kevin and I enjoyed meeting teachers and agricultural educators across the country this spring and summer. I want to say thank you to all of the state leaders and volunteers who put together these outstanding conferences. It is such a joy to learn about agriculture across this nation, but also to talk and see what people do in their regions and programs. I know all of the attendees appreciate the many hours of organization it took for these conferences to be a success. THANK YOU!!


     Thanks to the many who traveled to regional conferences to share what is going on in your states, work on committees and judge applications. We are also looking into new and innovative ways to have applications submitted and judged as well as broadening our committee work beyond the conferences. We hope some of these changes will enable more individuals to become involved with the work of NAAE and help strengthen our organization.


Even though I know each state has its own way of doing business, many times individuals become involved in leadership roles because they were asked to do so. It seems that in many states filling committee responsibilities, area or district representative spots, and even state association officer spots is becoming a difficult task. So, I am asking each and every one of you to consider stepping up to a commitment in your professional organization. Whether on the local, state or national level, we need committed leaders who will work to strengthen agricultural education. There are many ways in which to get involved. I encourage you to look into the many opportunities and decide what is the best role for you. The time is now if we are going to move forward. Please be a part of movement, because as they say, "If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem."

 

It was exciting to hear that NAAE received over 250 submissions for presentations for the 2013 NAAE Convention. Although I am sure the draw of Las Vegas might have been part of the attraction, I hope anyone not selected will consider presenting their workshop at their state and regional conferences. I am looking forward to see how some of our changes work out for the NAAE Convention. Our staff has done an excellent job of taking the concerns and comments of our participants and views of the board to offer an amazing conference for you to attend. Yes, it is bittersweet to think that the end of my term is getting near, but I have been so fortunate to do so much and meet so many of you while in this position, again I am humbled.

 

I am thrilled to say I am officially a "Teacher of Teachers," as two of my former students have accepted teaching positions in the state of Florida. I know my role as a mentor and guiding force is truly just beginning and I can't wait to see what Nyssa and Sarah accomplish! So as we begin the transition of summer camps, professional development conferences, county fairs, back to school shopping, officer meetings, and competition team practices, if given the opportunity to be a role model and mentor to someone new to our profession, please lend a helping hand. If you are new to the profession, please be willing to ask for help and willingly take the advice given. Some of the best advice I've ever been given has been by my peers willing to share.

 

     My last thoughts are that I can not wait to see what all you have planned for National Teach Ag Day!! September 26th will be here before you know it! Whether it is a large activity, getting your students presenting or sharing your story with your students and encouraging them to join this awesome profession, I hope everyone will take part in National Teach Ag Day. If everyone in agricultural education works together to promote National Teach Ag Day, it will be unbelievable what results can happen. It is my hope that through recruitment and retention efforts, in just a few years we will no longer have a critical shortage of agriculture teachers. More programs can open and we can work towards all middle schools, high schools, community colleges and universities offering agriculture classes! Just imagine the possibilities!

 

If you are unsure what your role can be in National Teach Ag Day, check out the website - http://www.naae.org/teachag for new and exciting activities to share with your students. Thank you for what you do. I know we don't hear it enough. Thanks, thanks and many thanks for what you do for agricultural education. I am an Agricultural Educator by choice and not by chance!!.