I teach at Cherokee High School in Cherokee, Alabama. I am currently in my fourteenth year of teaching agriculture. I teach agriculture exploration, fundamentals of agriscience, agricultural construction and welding. I am married and have a 10-year-old son. My wife's name is Tanya and my son's name is Tyson. I grew up on a family farm in the Florence, Alabama area, in the Greenhill community. My family and I currently live in Iuka, Mississippi, which is just across the state line from where I teach in Cherokee. I am very thankful for the mentors that have contributed to my teaching profession during my 14 years of teaching. During my first year of teaching, I joined NAAE and have become more involved each year. As I look back over my career as an agriculture teacher, I can see how this organization has given me a great perspective of our profession.
Recruitment and Retention: We do what we love and we love what we do! I love my job and I am sure everyone else in this profession does as well. It is very important that we, during our normal daily duties as an agriculture teachers, find those that we can see someday filling the shoes of our profession. The number one reason is so that this profession obtains highly qualified, trained agriculture teachers. I encourage every ag teacher to participate in National Teach Ag Day. Let's talk about what we love! There little doubt in my mind that if you have been teaching over 10 years you will not try and hang around for at least 15 more. It is hard enough to fill the open slots as it is, we do not need to add to this deficit. The XLR8 award program is a great way to add a little more fuel to a dwindling fire in education. It is important that we use our resources in education. Go out today and find an ag teacher! #teachag
Advocacy: We never know what each day may bring, so we need to be prepared the best way we can. As for our profession, how do we become more prepared to handle different circumstances? I'm not talking about how to handle the unpredictable weather. It's the daily battle that we, as educators, have to fight for our programs locally, statewide and nationally. Sometimes you have to fight for what is yours! Agricultural education is ours! How do we fight? Through advocacy! First of all, advocacy must begin locally. As proud educators, we like to talk about our programs, hear our students talk to other students about our programs, and hear the community talk about our programs. All of this talking is advocacy! We have to make sure, for the most part, that we advocate for ourselves and not expect someone else to do it for us. To promote our profession, we definitely need to advocate to our students as much as possible. We can do this by talking to them about agricultural education and other agricultural careers. As for our profession, I would like to encourage all of our NAAE members to advocate for agricultural education, as a whole. Talk the talk of agricultural education to your members of Congress, so they can see the importance of funding and what we do as agriculture teachers.
Agricultural Education : When an agriculture teacher talks with someone in the community and they ask "what is it you do?," we answer by saying, "I am the ag teacher at the school." Then someone immediately follows with "Oh I see where your kids have done this, or are doing that and they have been winning a lot of FFA awards!" There is no doubt that agricultural education and FFA have a positive impact on the community. If there are service projects to do, our programs are usually part of them. Our students' success is provided through our teaching and our leadership. As agricultural educators, we need to focus on the profession as a whole, not just the FFA success, but also the classroom and SAE success. We need to make our programs as rigorous and relevant as possible. We need to always identify ways of incorporating STEM into our agriculture lessons, so we can maintain high levels of academic standards. This is important in every agriculture curriculum, whether it is agriscience in the "classroom' setting or agricultural mechanics in the "shop" setting.
I ask for your consideration for the office of President Elect. I will represent this organization well and provide a strong voice in the decisions affecting OUR agricultural educational programs.
I am an agricultural educator by choice and not by chance. How many times have you heard this or read this during your career as a teacher? I am guessing a few to be sure, but I really believe in these words and honestly feel like I do have the best job in our entire school system. For 31 years, I have smiled every day I go to work because of what I get to do and the students I work with. I love what I do and I would not want to do anything else. I really feel we do have the best job ever.
The industry that our job represents is constantly changing and requires us to be life-long learners, but it also allows us to promote a career in agriculture to our students. As the world population increases and we lose land used in production agriculture on a daily basis, we must teach and prepare tomorrow's decision makers and problem solvers in these critical areas.
We have seen education reform in many different formats over the years, and I have done my share of work in developing many of these, as my administration embraced a new idea or program. I have always believed, though, that the true strengths of our programs lie in the experiential learning and leadership we provide to each student who enters our classroom.
Advocacy must always begin at the local level, working with local administration, school boards and our students' parents. Developing and promoting a quality program, that encompasses all phases of the three circle model, will gain more local supporters that build the base for more continued support at the state and national levels.
I also believe that it is our job to make sure we mentor other members to assist them in becoming better advocates for their programs. One of the greatest strengths of our organization is the grassroots work of members. We need to keep promoting this to our new members by more actively involving them in the process. If members will continue to use the tools that NAAE has developed and provides on our website, we can continue to develop those relationships needed to promote our profession.
RECRUITMENT AND RETENTION
Ten years ago, when I began serving as an officer with SDAAE, I felt recruitment and retention might be our biggest challenge, and it has not changed since then. I truly love my job, but I can't teach forever and I do not know who will someday replace me. Each fall, states are short teachers to fill all the open positions, so schools are forced to hire teachers not trained in agricultural education to fill the position until a qualified teacher can be found. Programs such as the Teach Ag Campaign, Teachers Turn the Key and XLR8 are all good programs promoted by NAAE and help in the process, yet the number one promoter for future teachers needs to be us. No one knows our students better than us for recruiting and identifying quality educators for the future. Once recruited, we must continue to mentor and encourage new teachers. Many states have mentoring programs for beginning teachers, to help them with time management and balancing the commitments of their jobs with their personal and family life. Each of us should make sure we encourage and assist whenever possible.
The tradition of agricultural education was founded on the three circle model and I believe in this concept heart and soul. This concept continues to be the basis for our programs as we move into the future. I realize that agriculture and agriculture programs are going to look different in all parts of the country, dependent on the needs of each community, and this will not change. We can, however, make a difference in each community by developing students who are passionate about agriculture, their communities, and in promoting citizenship through community service.
I believe agricultural courses must continue to be relevant and rigorous and that we also need to continue integrating more science and math into our curriculum. The uniqueness of our classes is what has made us so popular with many students and parents, and has led to many of the successes of our programs. We must also be able to demonstrate value to administrators and school boards to maintain our status.
In closing, I just want to say how much of a privilege and honor it has been to serve on the board the last three years. It has been a great experience to meet so many new teachers and supporters of our organization. I have a real passion for the NAAE and agricultural education, and would be honored to continue to serve you if elected as President-Elect. For those who know me, they will tell you I am not shy in speaking and fighting for those things I feel are important and will represent all teachers of the NAAE. Thank you for this amazing opportunity.
My agricultural education journey began at Spokane Falls Community College, where I received my Associated of Arts Degree. I then went on to complete my Bachelors of Science degree from Washington State University (WSU) in Pullman, Washington. After that, I achieved my Masters of Agriculture Science in 2013, also from WSU. I began my teaching career in Kendrick, Idaho where I taught agriculture and plant sciences and mechanics for seven years. Then I was able to move back to my home state of Washington in 2008 to Odessa (6 years). In 2010, I was selected to split my time between two high schools, daily, offering three agriculture courses of at both Odessa and Harrington school districts, and advising two FFA Chapters. This summer I began my fourteenth year in agricultural education and I was given the opportunity to take on the agriculture science position at Deer Park High School, teaching horticulture (CASE Plant Science), agriculture leadership, floral design, agriculture biology and physical science.
I served on the Idaho Vocational Agriculture Teachers Association (IVATA) as an officer for two years. I was selected as a Teacher Turn the Key recipient in 2002. I received recognition as the Idaho Outstanding Young Member and Outstanding Program in Washington. I have been a member of the NAAE for 15 years, served as the chair and co-chair for the member services committee, Region I secretary and Vice Chair.
My husband of 11 years is a huge advocate for agriculture and is a believer in agricultural education. He is a custom applicator, assisting agriculturists in making the best choices for their fields. Our only son, Porter is five years old and started Kindergarten this fall. Porter enjoys everything about my classroom and having the chance to be around my students. His knowledge about agriculture is quite extensive and he loves to share his stories about raising and showing his lambs and horse. I am excited to one day have Porter in my program. As a family, we enjoy our animals (5 horses, 5 cows, 3 breeding ewes, 3 dogs, and 3 cats), traveling, and spending time outdoors.
I have worked very hard in my position of being an educator, FFA advisor, a voice of agriculture for our state and nation, and want to share my success with others.
"My love for youth will spur me on to impart something from my life that will help make for each of my students a full and happy future."
Erica D. Whitmore
Tara Berescik, agriculture teacher at Tri-Valley Central School in Grahamsville New York, is enjoying a year full of accolades. Not only was she selected as the NAAE Region VI Agriscience Teacher of the Year, but she was also named ACTE Teacher of the Year for 2014.
One of the innovations for which Berescik has garnered praise is her long-term collaboration with Cornell University's Good Agricultural Practices program. The GAP program, which is implemented by 26 states, reduces the risk of foodborne illnesses in fruits and vegetables by educating growers and packers about the causes and how to minimize risk in their products. In collaboration with agriculture teachers from California and Florida, Berescik has created a plant and food science curriculum that helps students develop a concrete understanding of the goals and principles of GAP.
The curriculum teaches students the safety, sanitation, and science of food. Berescik collaborates with local producers and community gardens to provide the supplies needed to develop and process food products. Berescik could simply lecture about GAP concept, but she finds it much more effective to have students experience the concepts through activities.
"I have worked hard to make students see the importance of hands-on learning," she said.
For instance, students completing the GAP curriculum have developed meat fillers and spice substitutes for individuals with food allergies. They also have worked directly with Tri-Valley's cafeteria director to offer trials of food products in the cafeteria. This requires them to determine caloric content as well as nutritional values for their recipes. Through the development of these food products, the students learn the importance of food safety -- a primary goal of the GAP program.
Students also perform experiments with ingredients to develop new food products, which they market and sell at the school's AgFood Concession Stand -- another endeavor of the agriculture department. Recently, Berescik's students assessed the differences in homogenized and non-homogenized milk used for cheese production, as well as different varieties of flour used to make mozzarella cheese sticks. During their experiments, the students learned the proper way to process and handle foods for consumption. This taught them another key GAP concept - understanding how to reduce foodborne illness risks.
Berescik has traveled all across the United States showcasing the GAP plant and food science curriculum. She also presents workshops to agriculture teachers at no cost in order to help them develop their own plant and food science curriculum. She believes in incorporating all learning styles, while providing students with a strong background in science.
The Agriscience Teacher of the Year Award is sponsored by Potash. To learn more about NAAE award programs and see what other teachers were named as award winners, visit naae.org/resources/awards.
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