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12 Posts authored by: Nick Nelson

US Traveler

Posted by Nick Nelson Nov 7, 2018

This is a feature from the November 2018 edition of NAAE’s News & Views Newsletter. To read News & Views in its entirety, please visit this link.


Cowboy Logic: “I am no longer

young enough to know everything.”


I have a map of the United States that I have been carrying around since I was in high school. After visiting a state, I color it in on the map. I started color-coding the states as well, so I can differentiate between the reasons I was there. So far, I have visited 31 of the 50 states. The majority of those states I visited because of my involvement with NAAE—16.  Most people travel to see the sites or shop the unique stores—I have always been interested in an area's agriculture enterprises. When I come back, I always talk about the production I saw and experienced with my students.


The other advantage of traveling that I have had is meeting ag educators. What surprises me every time is the fact that ag teachers are the same everywhere you go, which is cool because there is no teacher in any school that has the personality of an ag teacher! So I thought I would put a list of why I think ag teachers are so unique compared to the average school teacher.


  • We vote liberal about education issues, but we vote conservative about agricultural issues
  • We are the only teachers to ever visit a student’s home
  • We invest countless hours that we don’t get paid for—and don’t lose any sleep over it!
  • We are constantly changing our curriculum, sometimes minutes prior to class—and we can pull it off!
  • We know more about accounting than the finance teacher (especially about tax write-offs)
  • We know more about mammalian reproduction than the health/biology teacher and expect our students to care for real, live babies
  • We teach “real” math every day
  • We know all of the other ag teachers in the state and region and consider them dear friends
  • We never ever let the truth get in the way of a good story
  • We are a “Jack of ALL Trades,” but recognize that “We are a Master of None”
  • And we focus on teaching every child, everywhere, every day!


As I finish out my term serving NAAE on the Board of Directors, I can’t explain in words how amazed I am of the people in our profession. Ag teachers are truly the most impressive people in their schools and communities. Thank you all for allowing me to have the most rewarding experience I could have in this profession. Everywhere I have gone in my travels with NAAE, I have been made to feel like family—thank you for that!


Many things have happen this fall in the NAAE office. We have offered the Marketing/Communications position to Libby Duncan and she has accepted and started work for NAAE towards the end of October. We were very impressed with Libby’s background and expertise, and feel very strongly she is the right fit for this position. Hopefully you will be able to meet Ms. Duncan at the NAAE Convention in San Antonio. The rest of the staff had a successful week in Indianapolis, visiting with both teachers and students, and have been working tirelessly to prepare for the NAAE Convention and make it the best professional development event to date. You also may have seen some leadership changes to CASE.  Be rest assured that this outstanding professional development initiative is in good hands and will continue forward to benefit agricultural educators in years to come! I look forward to seeing you all in San Antonio, and I am extremely excited about the vision and the progression of where agricultural education is headed.


Best wishes,

Nick Nelson


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Scratching the Bulls

Posted by Nick Nelson Sep 13, 2018

This is a feature from the September 2018 edition of NAAE’s News & Views Newsletter. To read News & Views in its entirety, please visit this link.


Halter breaking bull calves has always been something I have enjoyed. I know the secret to taming those buggers down. It's pretty simple really....they live for two things, and one of them is being scratched -- you can figure out the other. We like to take the bulls to the county fair before we send them down to the bull development lot. Some people show their cattle for marketing, others show because that is what they do. We show for the experience for both the calves and the kids. I could care less how they do in the show. I really focus on getting them ready for the competition when they get to the grower lot, and I find that gentling and backgrounding the calves creates for an aggressive bull when they are all thrown together. Winning awards is nice, but it is more than that -- just like being recognized for an NAAE award.


I would like to extend my congratulations to all of the NAAE award winners for the 2018 year. This is a major accomplishment that oftentimes we may overlook the importance of. As these awards recognize you and your program's accomplishments, they also recognize your community, administration, students, and your fellow teachers. That is truly the importance of this recognition. The stakeholders involved in the awards are extremely proud that they had a contribution, and these awards are recognized at the national level. You can see the 2018 Award Winners on the NAAE website.


Many of you may have seen information about the Ag Ed Summit that will occur Tuesday, prior to NAAE Convention.  This will be an extremely important meeting that I believe will impact the future and advancement of agricultural education. I would encourage that each of your states have a representative available to attend, as well as other ag ed stakeholders in your state. I am excited and encouraged by the work that the National Council for Agricultural Education has done at their September meeting to advance agricultural education into the future. I do not believe there has ever been a time when all of the ag ed stakeholders have been willing to collaborate, as I witnessed this past week.


Ag education has had many changes over the past 100 years that we often forget about. Some of the facts we need to remember is that we had 90,000 students taking agriculture classes in our public schools 10 years prior to the Smith-Hughes Act of 1917. Ag ed has been housed in the US Department of Agriculture, US Department of the Interior, US Department of Health, Education and Wellness, US Department of Labor, and currently in US Department of Education.  Since we have been housed in the US Department of Education, we have gone from nine federally paid staff in the 60’s to seven in the 70’s, five in the early 80’s, and two in the 90’s until now. Change is upon us again, and we have the power to control our own destiny regarding the advancement of agricultural education in the US.


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This is a feature from the July 2018 edition of NAAE’s News & Views Newsletter. To read News & Views in its entirety, please visit this link.


For most of us summertime is a busy time, just a different kind of busy than the school year offers. I find myself between livestock shows and baseball tournaments right now, along with traveling around to ag teachers' conferences. I landed in Pennsylvania to attend the NAAE Region VI Conference, and by the I got into the rental car to go to the conference location it was time for my son’s little league game, which I can listen to from an app on my phone. My son got a triple, which got me so excited that I missed the sign to turn and ended up on the turnpike, which happened to be a toll road.  We don’t have toll roads in Oregon, and I'm still not sure how they work, but what I have learned is that if you do not have a ticket, they charge you for traveling the whole length of I-83. My missed road cost me $30 for the 10 miles I was on it — someone from the east coast needs to help this rural Oregon kid out!


The more I travel around and visit with ag teachers, the more I am of the opinion that all ag teachers are the same no matter where you go -- we all have the same struggles and issues. One issue that is very common is an increase of non-traditional teachers filling the ag teacher shortfall. The real concern is that these teachers seldom last very long because of issues with classroom management, learning FFA, SAE's, or being willing to collaborate in their teachers' association. Some become very successful -- I can name two -- but most non-traditional, industry-based teachers struggle with the huge learning curve in agricultural education. We have a huge growth of new teachers, and I think this is a direct result of the National Teach Ag Campaign, however these teachers are struggling as well.


So the question that I get most often is how do we as a state or a region better support these teachers? Things that I have noticed across the nation is that our professional conferences are extremely helpful if we can get the teachers there. I have witnessed that successful conferences have infused more workshops instead of tours, and this is a direct result of “needs” surveys done prior to the conferences. New teachers want the content and the how-to’s! One state I visited had three days of workshops that varied from a full day, two hours, one hour to 30 minutes, based on the emphasis from the teachers attending. This conference that I speak of had a record number of teachers attending, and I believe that was because the state leadership did an outstanding job listening to the needs of the teachers they represented and were willing to change their conference to meet their members' needs.


As the National Teach Ag Campaign is doing a great job recruiting teachers, it is our job to retain them. I believe this begins with encouraging new teacher membership in our organization. Some regions have really done an excellent job of helping preservice teachers get to state, regional and national conferences — I believe this is important because we get them into the wonderful collaboration and the family collusion that NAAE provides its members. It is no different in recruiting your freshmen to become FFA members, because if we wait until they are sophomores or juniors, they have already missed out on so much. One region that I have visited has about four universities with agricultural education degrees, that work together to provide workshops specifically for preservice teachers at the regional conference. This workshop is one day ahead of the major conference schedule, but allows preservice teachers to hear from experienced teachers from various states. This also helps the preservice teachers to learn of the jobs available, and gives them a chance to be recruited as well. This is a win-win, as these soon-to-be new teachers are getting to rub shoulders with experienced ag teachers, who tend to be the state leaders, but the experienced teachers are learning the new technology and out-of-the-box ideas from the preservice teachers.


Lastly, I truly believe the next step to support our current, new, and future teachers is to set up a mentoring system at the local and national levels. The professional growth committee is soon to roll out a national mentorship handbook that can be very beneficial to retaining teachers. As older, more-seasoned ag teachers, we have to be willing to take an active role in this process. We must be willing to mentor young and non-traditional teachers to make sure their teaching experience is as successful as our own.


The NAAE staff have been busy all summer preparing for the national conference in San Antonio this fall. This includes that includes selecting and announcing award winners, selecting workshop presenters, sponsors, speakers, organizing the many programs for ag teachers and so much more. Currently there are four interns working in the office and one in Washington D.C., serving NAAE in an advocacy role. Recently we rewrote the Communications/Marketing position to find a person that really is dialed-in on the communications part of that position, who can run the website, CoP, as well as marketing, and be able to teach ag teachers how to use all of our resources. Virtual committee meetings will be scheduled shortly as we finish up the last regional conferences, so look for those dates on CoP. The action items will be evaluated and put into action at the NAAE Board meeting in September. Summer is indeed a different kind of busy, but please take some time to refuel the flame you have for teaching!


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Your Roots Run Deep

Posted by Nick Nelson May 8, 2018

This is a feature from the May 2018 edition of NAAE’s News & Views Newsletter. To read News & Views in its entirety, please visit this link


The communities that we live in never cease to amaze me!  This past weekend my wife and daughter traveled south eight hours to compete at a jackpot show, while my son and I traveled four hours north to a baseball tournament. On Saturday night we got a call from the high school girl who was taking care of our animals at home. She reported that my daughter's steer was prolapsing and was distended. She was doing all she could and no veterinarians were around. We called a local rancher and he came out and sewed up the steer, tubed him with the help of the neighbor girl and her parents. We were able to get back on Sunday and worked on the steer some more. We ended up taking the steer Sunday night to the neighboring town 30 miles away to a vet who was willing to work after hours. We left the calf at the clinic overnight, deciding that he was impacted in his intestine and was going to require more attention in the morning. The next morning, the vet called and said that we had lost the steer. The veterinarian had called a local feedlot and made arrangements for disposal and called the tractor dealership to borrow a tractor to load the carcass. By the end of the day, everything had been taken care of. Flowers and dinner were even sent to our family and numerous people had made offers to help my daughter.


Now here is the interesting thing about this tragedy. The neighbor girl is an active 4-H and FFA member, her parents are on the FFA Alumni board. The rancher is a former state FFA officer; I had taught the veterinarian's sons when they were in high school; the feedlot manager’s daughters also went through my ag program at both the college and high school level and they are ag teachers now. Lastly, the tractor dealership is extremely supportive at the local livestock shows and employs my students. All these people came together to help a kid who had lost her animal at the drop of a hat by just a simple phone call. As an ag teacher, your roots grow deep every year and the impact you have will ultimately comes back to you.


I say it time and time again — the program that you operate is not a school program, it is a community program more so than any other that the school offers. Therefore, your continued professional development is not just for you — it’s for your community as well! This summer, make plans to attend your state and regional professional development conferences. The value you get from workshops, tours, committees, and the social aspect allow you to reconnect with the profession and gives you experiences for your classroom and rejuvenates you as a teacher. I truly believe that the professional development you get from NAAE — whether at the state, regional or national level — is unparalleled to anything you would get from another organization.


Make attending a priority and do not let cost stop you from attending. We need to express to our administration, advisory committee, and alumni how important it is for us to stay connected to ag education. Remember these activities — be it conferences, CASE institutes, Farmer to Farmer, or Ag I² — are helping to enhance the community, not just you! You will find out, just like I did, that your community cares for you and your family and will offer help without hesitation.


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Stub-Tailed Coyotes

Posted by Nick Nelson Mar 6, 2018

This is an article from the March 2018 edition of NAAE’s News & Views Newsletter. To read News & Views in its entirety, please visit this link.


Mike Hubbard was a stockman and world class cow dog trainer that ranched on the other side of the Lost River from our family’s operation in the Langell Valley of southern Oregon. In the winter we would get these long cold spells that were hard on ranchers and livestock alike. My dad and Mike would get together after morning feeding and lambing/calving checks and play cribbage in front of the fire in the lambing barns. While they played cards and drank coffee, they would tell each other stories that they had heard or most often stories that they had invented. I can still remember a story Mike told me about a coyote that he had trouble with:


“I was riding the Honda up to the lambing barn when I saw him the very first time. He was in front of a big boulder that jutted out of the side hill, and he was big. He was big enough that I could see his nose sticking out on one side of the rock, and see his tail wagging on the other. I tiptoed my way up as close as I could get, but there was no way I could get a clear shot off without him hightailing it out of there, so I tested the wind with my thumb. Once I determined the wind was just right, I aimed straight to the sky and fired. What I didn’t count on was that coyote hearing the shot and switching directions. I heard a wince from that dog, but when I got to the place he should have been, all that was left of him was about 8 inches of tail. For the next six months I played hide and seek with that coyote, with him getting a few lambs and me making a few feeble rifle shots at him.


“The next spring I saw that coyote again catching mice in the alfalfa field. I knew it was the same 'yote because he was missing half of his tail. This time I wasn’t going to let him get away. I belly-crawled for half a mile through that field, every so often parting the alfalfa to see where he was. Finally I got to within 10 feet of that coyote. I parted the legume and he was laying there with is stubbed tail pointing at me. As I raised up my rifle, it occurred to me that I had not jacked a shell into the chamber. I just knew that the sound would scare him away. So I did the best thing I could think of — I raised up real slow, pointed that barrel at that big ol’ coyote and yelled BANG! He died of a heart attack.”


Mike Hubbard would have been a great ag teacher, mostly because he never let the truth get in the way of a good story. The other thing about Mike was that he would always share his mistakes and lessons learned in the process. This is one of the huge advantages of going to regional conferences. It is a chance to get together with other ag teachers and share with each other the lessons learned in and out of the classroom. It is an opportunity that shows that everybody is in the same boat, has had similar trials and tribulations and the sharing of how those situations were handled. If a story gets told, even better. These professional development opportunities are what separates ag teachers from the rest of the school.


Regional conferences are not just for the leadership teams in your state, but for any member to visit with colleagues beyond our state borders. We are seeing an increase of pre-service teachers coming to these meetings with their universities and great collaboration is happening at the conferences because of it. This year, a couple different regions are planning an XLR8 workshop for mid-career teachers that would not be able to attend at the NAAE convention. These types of professional development activities are tremendously invaluable, please do not miss the opportunity to attend.


Regional Conferences dates and locations are listed below:

Region 1-- April 25-28;  Cedar City, UT
Region 2—June 18-21;  Ft. Collins, CO
Region 3—June 18-20;  Cedar Rapids, IA

Region 4—June 26-28;  Kansas City, MO
Region 5—June 25-27;  Asheville, NC
Region 6—July 9-12;      Dover, PA


At the NAAE office in Lexington, Kentucky, many things are keeping the staff and officers busy. The board has approved new changes to the award applications, which is a directive that came out of committees. Those are now live and up and running on the NAAE website. You will see new application questions that are current and show a separation of the award areas. Also, the NAAE Board of Directors has approved a change from the Agriscience Teacher Award to an Agriscience Fellowship Program. We are excited for what the Fellowship Program can provide and will have details to the members by this spring. We will soon have a new operating budget and will be looking to approve it by the end of the month. As you read this, the National Policy Seminar will have just gotten over with many of our colleagues visiting Capitol Hill in Washington D.C., advocating on our behalf. Currently the NAAE staff is screening applicants for the marketing position and will be interviewing for that position in the next month. We have also received good news from National FFA to have another ag educator on the National FFA Board. The NAAE Board of Directors submitted three individual names after an application review to the Department of Education. DOE will select one of the three to serve on that board. Having two ag educators on the National FFA Board is a very positive exciting opportunity.


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This is an article from the January 2018 edition of NAAE’s News & Views Newsletter. To read News & Views in its entirety, please visit this link.


Ever hear of a starving artist? It is kind of a joke that we say that phrase, yet in most schools and very much so in post-secondary education art is a required course. At my college, students that would like to transfer to the university are required to take 12 credits of Arts and Letters to major in agriculture.


If we could replace art with agriculture, would the artist still be starving? Many of you may have heard recently about Anna Peterson, a high school senior agriculture student from Nampa, Idaho, who recently drafted a bill to make agricultural science courses a requirement for all students in public schools. Anna is a non-traditional agriculture student, who started working at a dairy as part of her SAE project. When she received negative feedback from her peers about her job, she decided that there had to be some way to educate all students about where their food comes from. As part of Anna’s senior project, she drafted the bill and will introduce it at the 2018 Idaho Legislative session.


Win or lose, I am very impressed by Anna’s efforts and commend her for her advocacy work on behalf of agricultural education. If the bill fails, Anna has still won — she has educated the public through the media, she has inspired the agriculture industry, given hope and optimism for our youth, and has motivated her peers to continue advocacy for agriculture through agricultural education!


A couple years ago, Monsanto sponsored a challenge to agriculture programs about advocacy, specifically focusing on social media. Below are some quotes from Agriculture Teachers that faced that challenge:


"If we don't take control of the message that is agriculture, others will tell our story for us. Being an informed agriculturalist makes students understand the realities of agriculture and the various aspects of it."
--Misty Bivens, Agricutlure Teacher at LaRue County, Hodgenville, Ky.


"Teaching about agricultural advocacy teaches students to use higher-level thinking and identify false arguments. They learn that a majority opinion in the public's mind does not necessarily make it a fact."
--Trent Van Leuven, Agriculture Teacher at Mackay H.S., Mackay, Id.


NAAE is also focused on many different advocacy efforts. The Member Services committee is anxiously awaiting the results of the nationwide survey on why ag teachers leave the profession — we hope this can shed some light on our retention efforts through both NAAE and the National Teach Ag Campaign. Many states across the country are working on or drafting legislative bills to ensure funding for agricultural education in their states, affiliate FFA, or state leadership centers to help train agriculture students. Advocacy is a never-ending process that we must teach and perform ourselves. I truly believe that when we stop advocating for agricultural education, we will be forced to find an art position — I can only draw stick figures!


If you are looking for a way to advocate for ag ed, plan on attending this year’s National Policy Seminar in Washington D.C. March 5-7, 2018. This is an important conference for you to attend to get an understanding of the political atmosphere, and how to help not only agricultural education, but also career and technical education. ACTE does a fantastic job organizing the NPS and helping you get around Capitol Hill.  NAAE will pay the registration fee for one NAAE member per state to attend the NPS. Your state's representative must register through NAAE. I encourage you to look at attending the NPS or recruiting someone from your state to attend. Year after year, I have found this to be very rewarding. I am always surprised at how eager our legislative appointees want to meet with us and hear our story.


Professional growth is where NAAE really shines offering opportunities for early, mid, and late career teachers. NPS is another avenue for you to gain professional development and share ideas with members from other states, that ultimately create resources for the grass roots organization. NAAE’s six committees will be meeting virtually over the next two months. There is always a need for committee members to serve on these committees and advocate for the organization. Check out the committee pages on Communities of Practice.


NAAE staff are getting ready to interview for the Communications/Marketing Coordinator position that is still currently open in the NAAE office, in Lexington, Ky. As of now, there have been about 30 applications that we have received and look forward to hiring the position prior to the next NAAE Board Meeting.


I look forward to seeing you at NPS in March!



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Agriculture's Image

Posted by Nick Nelson Dec 12, 2017

This is an article from the December 2017 edition of NAAE’s News & Views Newsletter. To read News & Views in its entirety, please visit this link.


Welcome from the President


The recent NAAE Convention in Nashville, TN was a huge success. Over 700 agriculture teachers were in attendance and took advantage of the 85 workshop and professional development opportunities that occurred during the week. We heard from sponsors and awarded numerous outstanding teachers and programs. It was a pleasure to be in Nashville and be able to visit and share ideas with all of the ag educators.


“Change” was the word that was on everyone’s mind after the first day of the convention. Changing the FFA Charter and changing the way ag education is delivered was often talked about. These topics are certainly things that we need to be mindful for, but also thoughtful about. Patience will need to be taken so that these issues will be in the best interest for our students, as well as our programs, with cooperation a top priority.


Agriculture has changed a lot in the last five years, especially how people view agriculture. It is not just the evening news that will make an occasional report, but now we have social media, as well as marketing, that will declare views on agriculture daily. A lot of these social media reports paint an ugly picture of agriculture -- whether the issues involves wolves, public land management, forest fires, water, GMO’s, or gluten free diets. More and more we are seeing a distinct disconnect between the producers and the consumers in America.


It has been reported that with the current political atmosphere, the urban-rural divide is getting increasingly bigger. There is a fear that by 2040 70% of the population will live in the 15 largest states, which creates less equalization in political votes as those largest states will only have 30 senate votes to the rural states' 70. As agricultural educators we are the front-line to protect agriculture’s image and sustainability. As ag teachers, we reside in some of the largest and smallest cities and towns. We need to teach our students "the sometimes harsh realities" of producing food, as well as to question everything that we now see, read, or hear from television, internet and radio sources.


I know through our NAAE organization, we are helping agriculture. Over the past couple of years, CASE curriculum has changed our delivery model for the good -- challenging us as well as our students. The National Teach Ag Campaign has developed recruitment and retention efforts to find and keep ag teachers in the classroom — the ag teacher shortage gap is getting smaller, and progress is being made from the high school to the university.  Thirty states, with more on the way for 2018, have enrolled in the STAR program and have developed a guide to recruit, maintain, and mentor teachers.


For all the negatives that are in our world, let us make sure we are a positive light for agriculture and our students. I wish all of you a happy holiday season, and that you are able to recharge your batteries with family and friends, and come back to the classroom with as much zeal as you left it!


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This is an article from the October 2017 edition of NAAE’s News & Views Newsletter. To read News & Views in its entirety, please visit this link.


Cowboy Logic: “The best thing about the

future is that it doesn’t start until tomorrow.”


When you are 14, it is extremely hard to see past tomorrow. Setting goals and recording them can be an almost impossible task. As you get older, the goals seem to be never-ending, or they are goals that cannot simply be accomplished, but only improved upon. If you remember back to when you were a high school student about to attend your very first National FFA Convention -- can you remember the excitement? For us out west, it might be the first time a student has had the opportunity to leave the state or ride on an airplane -- the excitement is almost unbearable. The trip itself might be so exciting that it is hard to set the goal of why they are going in the first place. Maybe they are going to compete in a National CDE, receive their American Degree, or serve as a delegate. I remember trying to prepare CDE teams who were simply satisfied that they won the state contest and to attend National FFA Convention was simply the reward. We cannot forget that taking students to National FFA Convention might be a once in a lifetime opportunity for our students, so we have an obligation to make sure it is a fun and memorable experience, because many of them may never get to come back. Don't forget to plan past that CDE event and do a little touring of the region, attend the sessions, go to the concert, plan time for your students to visit the career show -- let your students see a whole new world open up to them and create some new goals from all that excitement coming to fruition.


While attending National FFA Convention, be sure to make a point to bring your students to the NAAE, CASE and Teach Ag booths. The National FFA Convention & Expo can be such a positive experience on your students, that visiting these booths might encourage them to think about their own careers as ag teachers. The more that your students can see that the ag ed family really is a "family," it will definitely shed a positive light on what you do in and out of the classroom. We, as ag teachers, need to use every tool possible to find our future replacements. Our NAAE Staff loves to meet students and showcase the grassroots organization that we belong to. Check out the new things CASE has to offer, and where next year's CASE Institutes will be located, so you can take advantage of reinvigorating your curriculum. Teach Ag will have signing days for students making the commitment to teach agriculture, which can be a huge selling point for your students on beginning their careers as ag teachers, and gives them a game plan for the next steps in their career paths.


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A Stump-Tailed Horse

Posted by Nick Nelson Aug 6, 2017

This is an article from the August 2017 edition of NAAE’s News & Views Newsletter. To read News & Views in its entirety, please visit this link.


Cowboy Logic:
“Frustration is a
stump-tailed horse tied up short in fly season.”



As I write this blog, my kids are outside washing and clipping lambs for the fair tomorrow.  I will need to go out in a little bit and show them what spots they missed and get the cattle caught up. My kids are 10 and 12, and are constantly providing each other with constructive criticism and feedback (to put it nicely), much like all siblings.  Although they are becoming more responsible, there still is that chance that they left the water on, or the gate is unlatched, or the feed room got left open, or they spent all that time out there and forgot to feed their animal at all. During times like these I feel like that stump-tailed horse! 


We know that teaching agriculture is not an easy job, especially to our own kids! Then again it is our passion, it's what we do all hours of the day, and when your own child tells you that they want to become an ag teacher just like you, that makes what we do a lifestyle, not just a career choice. The Teach Ag Campaign has been a blessing to our organization and to our profession. I am seeing more young people wanting to become ag teachers than I have for a long, long time. At our state FFA convention, our STAR program put ag teachers on baseball cards and gave them out to the FFA Members with the idea that they would trade them to get sets.  There were rookie cards, legends, community college, state staff, etc. Each card had the picture of the individual and their ag teaching career stats on the back. I found that the ag teachers themselves were collecting them as much as the students were. I asked some students about the cards and if they were going to turn their collection in for a prize, and they told me "No, these are my heroes." 


Don't forget to mark your calendars for National Teach Ag Day -- September 21, 2017.  Check out the  National Teach Ag Campaign website for resources, tips and celebration ideas for you and your students. There is even a parent resource page that shows job demand, as well as a future teacher page that includes all available colleges and programs for agricultural education. We need to identify our students who would be great agriculture teachers and nurture that lifestyle choice. For three years, the STAR program has been running through the Teach Ag Campaign and has helped develop solid recruitment and retention strategies at the state level -- a major discussion point within the NAAE committees. Follow this link to see if your state is a STAR state and how you can be involved in the program to help us address the demand for agriculture teachers.


It's been a year since the Communities of Practice page has been updated. How unbelievable this site is for ag teachers!  There is nothing out there more helpful and useful for planning curriculum, lesson plans, activities, and everything in between. We now have a mobile friendly app -- just download the Jive app on your smart phone and you can have Communities of Practice even on the go. It is so important that we, as ag teachers, help one another because there are a lot of folks out there that just don't get agriculture and they certainly don't understand teaching. Do not think of CoP as just a place to get a PowerPoint, it is a communication portal, so you get the resource with the greatest resource to back it up -- a fellow ag teacher! Agriculture is too broad and ever-changing for each of us to know it all. Now is a perfect time to cruise the CoP spaces and improve your curriculum before school starts again. Don't stand there like that stump-tailed horse, use CoP to be your fly swatter! 


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Sittin' on the Fence

Posted by Nick Nelson Jun 1, 2017

This is an article from the June 2017 edition of NAAE’s News & Views Newsletter. To read News & Views in its entirety, please visit this link.


Cowboy Logic: “Don’t expect the scenery

to change any if you’re sittin’ on the fence.”


I have small cattle operation and I am trying to make it grow. In doing so, I have joined up with a partner that has a bunch of commercial cows and owns most of the land. Allan works for CHS on the marketing side of the company, and is gone a lot around the country doing trainings and helping CHS personnel. Consequently, I am also gone away from home, so partnering together kind of works. This past weekend we hauled cows to the mountain pastures from the Horn Ranch that we lease, and where we put the bulls in to accommodate smaller breeding pastures. We have two different places in the Blue Mountains that we split the herd up and take them to. I manage my cows and Allan's half on the Cayuse Range, and Allan manages the group that go to Ukiah. Both places are beautiful this time of year, and I wish I could just translocate to those mountain pastures and go nowhere ever again. However, life just gets in the way. As we unloaded the last set of pairs, Allan and I started talking about our plans and schedules over the next month. Allan has a daughter that just got on the Round-Up Court, and he explained that every Saturday from now until September, he was responsible for taking his daughter to parades -- next week he was in Montana and...... I explained that my scenario was much the same with baseball games, livestock shows, rodeos, and NAAE responsibilities. We decided it was a good thing that we were working together because if we were each on our own, we would never see the cows again.


The other thing that happens this time of year is that the six NAAE regions come together to have their regional meetings. When I was a young teacher, I assumed that these meetings were just for our state officers, so I never concerned myself with going to one. After a couple years of teaching, I was encouraged to help our state association start up a newsletter, so I was elected into that position and got the Ol' Yeller back into print. In doing so, I was to go to the Region I meeting in Cody, Wyoming. I never knew a guy could have so much fun with a bunch of ag teachers from other states. I learned about different legislature that was happening on a state-by-state basis, and was able to tour some of the most famous ranches in history. The after-meeting activities were a lot of fun as well and included a poker run and a buffalo riding contest. After that inaugural year, I have tried to make it to every Region I conference, from hosting one to setting another up in Hawaii. Each one has provided me with a tremendous outlook on teaching agriculture in different states, and the tours that I have had the opportunity to see have ranged from the state of the art lumber mills in Idaho, to carrot harvesting/processing in Arizona; from Buck Knives to the Pendleton Woolen Mill; from high schools that have their own meat processing facility, to one that grows bananas from sprout to hand in 12 months. My scenery did changed once I got out of the state, and every year I bring back new stories and examples to share with my own students.


These conferences are for everyone that teaches agriculture and we need everyone's voice during these meetings to allow NAAE to keep on growing and to continue to be the grassroots organization that it is. The committee meetings are where we need your attendance. The committees get the information from you that will improve our organization and keep it moving forward in a direction that will assist agricultural educators in the classroom. I have never regretted going to a regional conference, and if you want to know what is out there, you need to get off of the fence!


NAAE Updates:   


Currently, NAAE has recently hired a new Membership Coordinator/Program Assistant to help in the NAAE office. Her name is Ms. Ashley Hood. This position became available because long-time NAAE employee, Linda Berry, has retired from NAAE and the University of Kentucky. We are excited about this new position and how it can help our members. Also, take advantage of NAAE activities to keep you active in the organization, such as the NAAE Virtual Book Club. Don't forget about Communities of Practice as we head into summer -- maybe it's time to revitalize that ag business class -- CoP can help you with resources and lesson ideas. Lastly, plan on attending your regional conferences -- you won't be disappointed!



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This is an article from the April 2017 edition of NAAE’s News & Views Newsletter. To read News & Views in its entirety, please visit this link.


Cowboy Logic: “Don’t go where the path may lead;

go instead where there is no path, and leave a trail.”


Les Linegar was an ag teacher -- one the best I have ever seen! My earliest memories of Les was when I was a state FFA officer, and was leading a leadership camp in his district. In my yearning to motivate students, I had said some things that could be taken as less-than-satisfactory and Les let me know the errors of my ways. From that time on, I kind of tip-toed around Mr. Linegar, but when I finished my student-teaching and became an ag teacher, I found out that he was a tremendous mentor and an advocate for me.


Les had an outstanding program. It was well-rounded with equal parts of classroom, experiential learning, and leadership. Les was old-school, right down to his haircut.  He had an active advisory committee, a proactive FFA Alumni, and huge community support. When I started teaching, he was one of the "Old Dogs" that young teachers looked up to and admired, but he always did it quietly and in an unassuming way. Interesting enough Mr. Linegar would not ever apply for our state ag teacher awards. In fact, he won our OATA Outstanding Teacher Award one year, only because the other teachers in his district filled out the application for him. When it came time to send the application on to NAAE, I could not for the life of me convince Les to send it. He was humble and really didn't feel he deserved the recognition. Les Linegar retired last year after 30 plus years of teaching at Ontario High School, yet he and his wife Marie still went to NAAE conference, and he was actively supporting his replacement at our recent state FFA convention. Les will always go down in my mind as a legend. He has and continually will leave a trail.


I have always regretted not being able to get Les Linegar to send his application to NAAE, and I thought his story needed to be heard. What I failed to get Les to see is that the award was not just for him, it was to highlight his community and his program. These NAAE awards advocate for your program. They are not designed to strictly highlight you or your program's FFA accomplishments, but instead recognize those partnerships that our programs make in our communities. Administrators love to see programs in their schools be recognized, and for those who don't understand ag -- they will have a better understanding after you, your program, and your partners are recognized on a national level.


Ag teachers are humble folks -- who else would work the hours of a farmer and not want to be recognized for it?  I would recommend that in your district meetings once a year, you nominate the teachers, programs, and partners to fill out an application for your state awards. Many times teachers may be more willing to apply if they know they have the backing of their cohort. Also, keep in mind that each state's association is recognized for professional awards, and one of the easiest ways to have a "Distinguished" state organization is to have all the award areas filled.


This is a busy time of year for all of us, including the NAAE staff. Several things are coming down the pike and below is a list of dates and programs that our NAAE staff are working on:


  • CASE Institute Registration is Open
  • CASE to host #TeachAgChat on Thursday, April 20  Join CASE for #TeachAgChat on April 20 from 8-9pm eastern time. The discussion will focus on questioning in the agriscience classroom. For more information about #TeachAgChat, visit
  • National Teach Ag Ambassador Applications are open - Deadline April 10  Each year, the National Teach Ag Campaign selects 12 outstanding preservice agriculture teachers to represent us at the National FFA Convention, and throughout the year as ambassadors, promoting the profession and encouraging others to Teach Ag! Click this link to learn more and apply.
  • National Agriscience Teacher of the Year Award WILL be offered for 2017  When we released award applications a few weeks ago, funding for the National Agriscience Teacher of the Year Award had not been confirmed. We did receive funding confirmation for that award last week, so it will be offered for 2017. The application instruction, supporting information and required signature sheet are available at, and the online award form should be available in the next 24-48 hours.
  • All NAAE award applications are due May 15, except regional citations, which are to be turned in at each region’s conference.
  • Call for volunteers to judge NAAE Awards  All NAAE members are invited to volunteer to help select regional winners for 2017 NAAE awards. Volunteers will judge up to 10 award applications which will be sent to them using a file sharing program like Dropbox or Google Drive. Interested members should visit for complete details. Deadline to volunteer is May 12.
  • 2017 NAAE Convention  Registration and housing are open for the 2017 NAAE Convention, and NAAE is also accepting professional development workshop proposals through May 12. For all details about NAAE convention, visit
  • DEKALB Agricultural Accomplishment Award  DEKALB® is proud to announce that we will once again sponsor the DEKALB Agricultural Accomplishment Award. For 70 years, this award has been presented to agriculture students who exemplify scholarship, commitment and work ethic. To nominate a deserving student in your chapter, ag educators should visit between March 1 - May 1, 2017.
  • Bayer Offers Awards for Those Seeking to Help Protect & Promote Bee Pollinators  Bayer's Bee Care program recently announced three great opportunities for anyone who has been involved in protecting and promoting bee pollinators as well as for those interested in establishing pollinator forage. There’s a $1,000 Youth Bee Care Community Leadership Award, a $5,000 Bee Care Community Leadership Award, and grants for up to $5,000 to establish or restore pollinator forage. Click here to see how you can apply!


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This is an article from the February 2017 edition of NAAE’s News & Views Newsletter. To read News & Views in its entirety, please visit this link.


Oftentimes we overlook the importance of professional development and make excuses to not attend or try to rationalize the relevance. I will admit that I have attended some workshops in the past that didn't live up to their title, however I try to make the most of the situation and find the silver lining. I understand that it is really hard to meet the needs of every ag teacher that may be attending due to the variety of agricultural curriculum.  Below I have made a list of the" Five W's" which should make professional development relevant to anyone teaching agriculture, at any level.


What:  You have to admit that professional development in agricultural education is unlike any other teacher organizations'. If you have attended one of these it is hard to compare the quality of theirs to ours! NAAE and the state and local levels of ag teacher associations do a great job of focusing on the teacher. We are idea sharers -- ag teachers don't reinvent the wheel, but are invested in sharing with each other and enhancing cooperation. If you are a post-secondary instructor, you also need to look at what professional development from NAAE can do for you -- if nothing else it is a tremendous recruitment opportunity for your program.


Who:  The best workshops I have ever attended have been led by ag teachers. Sometimes a business entity comes in and does a great job of letting us know the newest and greatest gadgets out there, but there is no question that ag teachers present the best to other ag teachers. NAAE does a tremendous job of using its members to offer professional development. I encourage you to look into the professional development offered in CASE, NAAE Regional and National Conferences, Teach Ag Campaign and National Agriscience Teachers Ambassadors.


Why:  Here is the most important reason. Professional development is for you and your students -- nothing else matters. We need to constantly improve ourselves for the betterment of our classroom and the advancement of our students. Agriculture is an ever-changing Industry, so our curriculum must be as well!


When:  Region I Conference--April 25-28, Sheridan, WY       

            Region II Conference--June 19-22, Oklahoma City, OK         

            Region III Conference--June 19-2, Wahpeton, ND     

            Region IV Conference--June 27-29, Lafayette, IN   

            Region V Conference--June 26-29, Athens, GA

            Region VI Conference--June 25-28, Portsmouth, NH


Wow:  As I am sitting here writing this blog, I am watching the snow come down again which makes me think how difficult traveling can be. I always worry when I have to leave my home, family and livestock because I realize the burden it puts on all of us when we leave home, but in the same token, I am reminded of the "Wow" factor that the last professional development that I attended gave me. I absolutely love the comradery that I get from meeting new ag teachers and learning new things that I can bring back to my students that have enhanced myself and my program. Do not miss out on the "Wow"!


NAAE/Staff Update:


Five of the seven NAAE committees have met and discussed business that will either be brought to the NAAE board meeting in March or to regional conferences. I am very impressed with the how these meetings are focused on improving NAAE. I do believe this new committee process is working, but the major difficulty is making sure every region has members on the committees, so action can happen. Regional leaders, be sure to check in with the committee pages on CoP and see if your region is missing members.


Contact Julie Fritsch if you are interested in having a Communities of Practice workshop at your state or regional conference. The workshop would cover setting up your Communities of Practice profile, using the mobile app, and general Communities of Practice information.


Please explain the value of ACTE and the role that NAAE membership has with ACTE at your state and regional conferences. Here is a link for a video of Dr. Jay Jackman talking about the importance of ACTE involvement. Please share with your states and regions:  Jay Jackman - The Value of ACTE Membership - YouTube.


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