Ag teachers can be Jacks (or Janes) of all trades. It is not that they necessarily know everything -- it's just that ag education spans such a wide range of topics. An ag teacher might begin his day showing students how to tack two pieces of metal together to build a gate, eat his lunch while helping the floriculture team understand the importance of a focal point in an arrangement, and end the day deworming goats in his animal science class.
Jason Chester, one of the three agriculture teachers at West Rowan High School in Mt. Ulla, North Carolina, uses a network of community support to ensure his students get first-hand knowledge and experience in agriculture. He has even developed a county-wide professional learning community of agricultural leaders and professors that meets quarterly to discuss the current trends in their expertise.
Chester's primary goal is that his students are well-prepared to enter the agriculture industry or postsecondary education.
"Working with local businesses and organizations also allows me to enhance my agriculture program through guest speakers. By allowing them in my classroom, my students gain valuable knowledge that they can use to make informed career decisions," he said.
These partnerships have opened many opportunities for his students.
Many of his students have SAE's in the community thanks to local farm businesses and veterinarians who see the value of West Rowan's agriculture program. These partnerships have even opened the doors for his agricultural mechanics students to help the community of Mt. Ulla with a variety of repair projects.
"I use agriculture as the vehicle to train students to solve real-world problems and prepare them for life after high school," Chester said.
Teachers like Chester are the reason communities come together to support the local agriculture program. They see the value of agricultural education through the various projects students complete beyond the classroom. Working with your community is one of the greatest ways to advocate for your program. You are not only providing your students with "hands-on" learning experiences, but you are developing lasting relationships that will help your students be successful in their future careers. That's one of the big reasons no one ever forgets their agriculture teacher.
Jason Chester was selected as the 2015 NAAE Region V Outstanding Agricultural Education Teacher. For more information about this award and to see a full listing of all the award recipients, click here. The Outstanding Agricultural Education Teacher Award is sponsored by Caterpillar, Inc. and Tractor Supply Company as a special project of the National FFA Foundation.
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