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6 Posts authored by: Charles Sappington

Have you ever been in a rut in your classroom?  Have you taught the same thing so many years in a row, that it becomes repetitious -- like a recording coming out of your brain? In reality that works for teachers in math, english and science but not for us aggies. With most of the other subjects taught in our schools, little changes from year to year, but agriculture is changing every day. We, as agricultural education professionals, are charged with the duty of keeping up-to-date not only with new technologies that come at us from every direction, but also new teaching strategies to help our students be successful in our classrooms.

 

Now the challenge comes to get away from our classrooms to take part in professional development -- convincing our administration that during our time away the flow of learning in our classroom is not interrupted. Everyone's administration is different, but I would hope they would be able to see the need for their ag teachers to keep up-to-date with their professional development. If we want to be successful and engaging teachers, we must invest the time at conventions and summer conferences to improve ourselves and teaching curriculum.


One of the biggest opportunities to participate in professional development is each year at NAAE Convention. Teachers can choose from more than 75 different workshops that can help their curriculum in subject areas from agriscience to ag mechanics. Professionals from all over the United States share their time and knowledge to help NAAE members better themselves.


In the end, it us up to us, as individual professionals, to see that we stay current in our classrooms. I must confess that in my latter years of teaching agriculture, I have been frustrated at times with some of my fellow teachers for not enhancing their educational portfolios, so that they may deliver the most challenging and innovative lessons possible. In the words of Iron Mike Ditka, "If you are determined enough and willing to pay the price, you can get it done."


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It has been said, "Take the ordinary and make it exceptional." I believe that is what most ag educators do every day in their classrooms. A fellow educator once told me we need to make those "Ah-Ha" moments more common, instead of the every day routine lessons. How can we do this and make our programs -- where learning has application to the real world with relevance and rigor -- transparent to the rest of the world?  What must we do, is draw in exceptional individuals to teach in our classrooms, and keep them there as they inspire our youth to take the lead in facing the challenges to agriculture in the future.

 

What is causing our teachers to leave after only a few years of teaching?  What obstacles do young teachers face? What can we do to better prepare those teachers for the challenges ahead? The frustrations of all teachers, agriculture or otherwise, are many. Some young teachers do not find success in their classrooms that other teachers have due to poor preparation and organization; while others do not have the passion, professionalism, and drive to be an agriculture teacher. I think we can agree that it takes a special breed of individual, who is willing to make the sacrifices required, to build and maintain a strong program. In the receiving line of an agriculture teacher's wedding, my wife will jokingly said, "Welcome to the FFA Advisors Widow's Club!" This statement was said to her after we were married 28 years ago. Yes, it was said in jest, but it does have some merit into the commitment that ag educators make to their students.


Why do teachers who have taught for so many years and are still teaching, profess that they would do nothing else?  I fall into that category. As I look back and ask myself that question, I look at the mentoring I had from more experienced teachers and the improvements I have made to my curriculum through the continuous professional development offered in our field. In discussions with agriculture teacher educators at our colleges and universities, I am thrilled that they are working not to just turn out teachers, but are preparing individuals who realize that learning should have application to the real world and its relevance should be transparent -- in no other course of study is this more attainable than in agricultural education. Some institutions are looking at incorporating the CASE model into their instruction, so that teachers have the opportunity to use a "turn key" curriculum. In this aspect, we can act as facilitators and give our students the organization and guidance towards the relevance, rigor, and retention they cannot attain as readily as they do in our agriculture programs.


In summary, there are no easy answers. Thanks to professionals in the ag education institutions, strong teachers in our profession, and outstanding initiatives like the Teach Ag Campaign, we are addressing the challenges of recruitment and retention of agricultural educators. I think everyone would agree that not everyone is made for the ag education profession. However, if we can identify young individuals while they are in high school, encourage and guide them to our profession, together we can fill our profession with passionate and dedicated teachers.

Now that our school year is coming to a close, we need to be thinking about what we going to do for next year. How are we going to improve our programs so that we move them to the next level?  How are we going to maintain the interest level and give our students something new and exciting to learn? We do not want to fall into the trap of teaching exactly the same thing year after year ....that's too easy!  What we must do is keep increasing our knowledge and skills for the betterment of our programs and our students.  This is where professional development can play a key role in taking your program to the next level. Each year, NAAE provides many opportunities for professional development and hits timely topics that can improve our programs. These opportunities exist at regional conferences, National FFA Convention, and at NAAE convention and can supplement our programs in so many ways.


Another way to participate in a major professional development is to sign up for a CASE Institute -- in my mind, the best way to take your program to the next level.  I participated in the Plant Science Institute last year and I am enrolled in the Animal Science Institute this summer. I can personally attest to the benefits of CASE.
These programs can energize both young and experienced teachers by helping them to incorporate the latest tools and concepts into their program.


As you plan your curriculum for next year, think new, think different, think innovative, and make your program the best it can be.

 

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So many times our NAAE members get elected to a position in their state's leadership and then have tasks assigned to them. We, of course, are pleased to perform these tasks because it is expected of us and we understand the importance of doing things to better our organization, but sometimes it can feel more like an obligation than an opportunity.


The NAAE board and staff provide our members opportunities to serve and grow in their professional leadership. This is being done two ways. The first is the revised committee processes, which allows members to serve on committees and help improve our organization without having to go to conventions and conferences.  Another opportunity members can take advantage of, right now, is through judging NAAE award applications. Members have the opportunity to judge awards for some of the nation's finest agriculture teachers. This opportunity serves two purposes; the first being our members get to play a part in deciding who we recognize at our national convention. Secondly, by judging these awards, our members may choose an area to judge where they may want to apply for in a few years.  This way a member can look at the "best of the best" applications and get ideas that may help them reach milestones in their own careers. 


The NAAE office is seeking members, right now, who want to take advantage of the opportunity to judge NAAE awards. If you are interested, contact Alissa Smith at the NAAE office, and she can get you included in the judging process.


Now it's up to you.  Do you want to get involved at the grassroots level and see your work as an opportunity, not an obligation? I would hope so, and I believe this process and opportunity will only make our great organization stronger.

 

God Bless,

Charlie

Each year, during the spring semester, we are really busy getting our students ready for awards and scholarship applications, but don't forget about yourself! It is your time to shine too!


The process for preparing for NAAE awards this year is different from past years.  Now, you must log on to the NAAE website and register your email address and a password. Once this is done, you can go to the NAAE award section and click on Apply for an Award.  At this juncture you may encounter a problem; if you have not paid your NAAE dues yet, or your state's dues remitter has not turned in your name and your dues to the NAAE office, you will not be allowed to open an award application.  This step in the process greatly aids the staff at the NAAE office because they will not have to check and see if each award applicant is a current, dues-paying member. When you are ready to send in your application in for your state's judging, you will need to print out your documentation and award application cover letter and send it to your state association.  If you are selected as your state's winner, you will need to hit submit button (if you did not do so earlier), so that all your materials for that award will be sent to the NAAE office for processing.


Applications should be available in early February. This award application process is just another way the staff at the NAAE office has made the NAAE website more functional and more user-friendly.  I hope this process makes it easier for all our members and I hope you make the decision this year that it is YOUR TIME TO SHINE!

The 2014 NAAE convention is now over and looking back on it, all I can say is, "Wow what a convention!" Professional development, business sessions, and committee meetings gave our members the opportunity to enhance their knowledge in a variety of agricultural areas and work at improving our organization. 

 

 

 

The beautiful Opryland setting was a great backdrop for our convention as we renewed old acquaintances and made new ones.

 

 

 

I'm really excited to see how the new committee process is going to work, to tackle issues at the grassroots level, and be able to help make our organization stronger and serve our members better throughout the year.

 

 

 

As we close out 2014 and look forward to the year 2015, may we take time to reflect on the blessings that have been bestowed upon us and our Ag Ed students. 

 

 

 

I believe that there is no other place in the world where we may live in freedom and pursue our dreams and ambitions in life. My hope for all of you this Christmas Break is to be able to spend time with your family and friends and enjoy a wonderful and safe Christmas holiday.

 

 

 

May you and your family have a blessed Christmas holiday and I look forward to working with you in the 2015 year.

 

 

 

God Bless,

 

 

 

Charlie