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It is pretty surreal sitting here at a computer and reflecting back on the final stage of my journey TO teacherhood. I suppose that I will now begin my journey OF teacherhood.

 

If I had to choose one word to describe my experience it would be challenging. I don't think that there has ever been a time where I paid so much money to work so hard other than my experience in Peru as a volunteer missionary but even though that was for two years I still paid significantly more for this experience which lasted 15 weeks.

 

There were a few times, especially in the beginning/middle that I contemplated whether it was worth it or if I could even do it. There was definitely a learning curve when it came to balancing being a teacher full-time, a husband and father, and completing my graduate research. Now, looking back I can confirm that, yes, it was definitely worth it and that I could not have done it without the support of my wife, the Penn State University supervisors, and my cohort.

 

In the beginning it was a struggle to build rapport with my cooperating teacher. I recognize that it is difficult to have a student teacher and to have a smooth transition into the classroom especially when you are so passionate about your work and you feel a great responsibility for your students. But by the end, I really do believe that we have a genuine friendship and a respect for one another as educators. It was a humbling experience, and one that I needed. I believe that my cooperating teacher recognized where I was at as a teacher and pushed me hard to be the best that I could be. I owe him a lot for accepting me as a student teacher and coaching me along the way.

 

I recognize that I still have a lot of room for improvement. Even at the end, I still struggle with classroom management,  but that is sort of the beauty of the ephemeral student teaching experience: that you can move on and the mistakes you made will not follow you. I know that when I am hired to teach at a school that I will do many things completely differently especially when it comes to classroom management. I am really happy with the rapport that I was able to build with my students, especially the students who I recognized as being marginalized in the school and at home. Those students are one of the main reasons that teaching high school really appeals to me: to be able to be a role model and a mentor to students who are struggling with the myriad of struggles that beset young adults.

 

 

I took some time on Friday evening before I made my drive home to go to the back of the school and reflect on the experience that had just come to a conclusion. The sun was setting and I could hear the birds and frogs making their music. It was peaceful and I was filled with happiness and gratitude for having been able to overcome many challenges and ultimately become the quality of teacher that I am today with a knowledge that I have limitless opportunities for personal and professional growth. This is an exciting time in my life and I am very excited to see what the next chapter of my life will bring.

Matt Snyder

The Mifflinburg Experience

Posted by Matt Snyder Apr 24, 2017

Yesterday I closed another chapter along my journey. My post secondary education has forced me to experience new things and take on new challenges. This has shaped me into who I am today.


The Mifflinburg Experience extends far beyond the school walls. It stretches from the West End, through the Buffalo Creek Valley, and down to the powerful Susquehanna. I’ve witnessed it on Sunday mornings as everyone travels to share in faith and fellowship. It becomes a part of you and who you are. I’ve had some great experiences and have reflected deeply upon each one.


The School Environment

From day one I have been impressed with how the Mifflinburg High School Administration puts emphasis on the agriculture program. Mr. Kessler and Ms. Spurrier have done a great job over the years. The administration recognizes this and sees the importance in the agricultural program. Both teachers have continued to impress me with their expertise in all subjects and more importantly their rapport with their students.


I have also been very impressed with the students in the agriculture program. It has been an easy transition for me into the classroom and I feel that I have established great classroom rapport. I was welcomed and respected from day one. These students continue to impress me with their knowledge and skills in certain areas. Some kids already have skills laying block because their dads are masons and have taught them the trade. These students are well on their way to excelling in whatever they decide to do after high school.

 

Students Layer Barn Placement.


I feel that I have done well teaching and the students have learned a lot, but we all have things that we would do differently in the future. Individual classes change a lot from year to year, so we must always be adapting. The biggest lessons come from our largest failures. I am excited to make changes after this experience and continue to evolve as an educator.


The Community Involvement

Before arriving in Mifflinburg, I had no idea that agriculture was so huge in Union County. The heart of Union County is nested in the numerous chicken houses and thousands of acres utilized for crop production. Agriculture is always evolving and so are these farmers. The Young Farmers Program here in Mifflinburg has continued to impress me with their dedication to agriculture and the success of all farmers. The Young Farmers Program also provides farmers with great social interactions which generate partnerships between Union County Farmers. Just last night, one of the members had a tour of their brand-new hog barn. Afterwards we had our meeting and meal as a community, for anyone, free of charge. Farmers can accomplish so much more when they work together.

Thank you Mr. Kessler for all the advice and support.

 

My experience student teaching has extended much farther than the school walls. I have gotten to see how much the community values agriculture and agricultural education. Meeting with the Young Farmers at meetings and banquets, talking with the Pikrite manufacturing team, and visiting hog and chicken farms has really opened my eyes and inspired me to be a great teacher. Mifflinburg was and still may be the perfect fit for me.

Nathan Repetz

Repetz Best Lesson

Posted by Nathan Repetz Apr 24, 2017

Area: Careers/Life Skills

Title: How do we calculate cost of living?

Length: two 46min class periods

Audience: Freshman, but works fine with any high school grade

 

 

 

 

02 Cost of Living - Google Docs

The place that I am today is one that I only dreamed about for many years. I have completed student teaching, and am about to take the first real step in my journey as a professional educator. Sometimes this goal seemed to far away to be real. Other times I didn't think I would make it. Now that I am here, I feel odd. I don't feel like a radical transition has taken place, but I know for a fact that I am not the same man I was a year ago. That is why reflection is important; to appreciate where we came from and realize just how much we have grown.

 

Some have asked me if I am still happy with the path I chose after my experience. I say absolutely. I could not see myself doing anything else. I feel like the Lord put me on this earth to teach ag, at very least for this chapter of my life. I feel fortunate for my passion and experience. I know that not everyone feels the same way. I have learned that you 100% can not compare your student teaching journey to anyone else's. I still had lots of doubts and struggles. Last fall I came within inches of giving up. I'm still here because I was stubborn and the tiniest piece of my heart refused to give up, and I'm glad I didn't. The past year was the most challenging of my life, but it was also the most rewarding.

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One of next year's student teachers asked me, "What do you wish you would have known?". My answer caused so much personal reflection, that I felt it had a place in my final thoughts. Here it is, a letter to myself exactly 1 year ago:

 

Dear Nate,

Strap in. This is boot camp: intense, stressful, not realistic, but it's not necessarily supposed to be. It's meant to prep for the real world, not mimic it. Fall semester is harder than you think. You attitude will be "I just need to get through the fall so I can get to the spring". But I will also say that that the things you take away will be worth it. Get a grasp on lesson plans earlier. From the first moment you can, view them as essential planning, not busy work. Plan out your finances/loans better over the summer. Remember, you are used to having a mild income from working at farm ops but that wont be true in the spring. Your truck is going to need the rear differential rebuilt in March, along with other things for inspection, and you will be stuck in the van for 4 weeks... make sure it will pass before January, especially before the sticker runs out. You will be living along and most of your human interaction is during the "go-time" of the school day. It can get lonely at night, but it is temporary. You are surrounded by friends, family, and colleges who expect you to need their help. Never be afraid to ask.Find several close people to vent to, so you don't wear one person down  Make an effort to save copies of anything you like, be it organisation systems, rubrics, activities, etc, and start now. You may never find "that one thing that one time" again. Also, you will frequently forget how many cool teaching strategies and techniques you know. Do what you can to remember. Don't stress over jobs, they will come. Anxiety and stress can be high at times, but so are the rewards. Teaching Ag is a lifestyle, not a job, and you will finally get to experience it. It goes faster than you think, so don't blink.

-Mr Repetz

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Through my experience student teaching there were many different experiences, that affected me in a multitude of ways.  I have reflected on most of them in the previous blog entries.  I feel that the best way I can have my reflection serve the future Student Teachers, is to provide them with tips that I received from teachers at Tyrone, and some I learned all by myself.

Tips first:

“Be organized proof read everything carefully before you give it to students and make sure there is no room for misunderstanding.  Plan each period so that all time, is used efficiently by every student.  Care about Kids.”

  • The first and last part about this one were lessons I learned myself.  The proof reading part especially.  You should proof read stuff for errors, then find someone with no knowledge of the subject, and see if they understand it.  Then and only then is it ready for your students.  I wasted so much time working to clear up my instructions, which I had initially thought flawless.  And when you give instructions make sure you give them verbally, hand them out written, and then write them on the board and give them verbally again.
  • Caring about students is the most important thing. Make sure they know you care about them, and work to help them with other classwork, and anything they need.  This will get you the currency you are going to need with them when they are struggling in your class.

“Forget nothing that they taught you about teaching in college, but challenge everything….  Half of it is nonsense and the other half just sounds good to those who don’t know any better.”

  • This is a lesson I learned far to late in the game. I had a tendency to think of the lessons I learned from our professors as the law.  The truth is the law is different everywhere.  If you go into student teaching, or I imagine a teaching job clinging to hard to the lessons you learned in college you are going to get a lot of kick back.  You need to work hard to understand the environment you are teaching in, so that you can react appropriately to reality, not the ideal situation you were trained for.  The lessons you learned are valuable.  Think of it as a big bag of tools.  You need to be ready to use those tools at a moment’s notice, but don’t be surprised if you have a bunch of plumber’s tools, and you are doing the work of an electrician.

The three-circle model. 

 

three circel model

You have been told that the three-circle model is the ideal delivery system for the total ag ed program.  You have been shown all the great and wondrous things it has to offer.  The reality can be quite different.  The first thing you need to do is forget about how you think it should all be implemented.  Then think long and hard about what the outcome of each circle is.  For FFA I learned that the outcome is student recognition, and confidence building through leadership and responsibility.  SAE allows students to connect lessons from class to the real world, but it also teaches valuable lessons about responsibility and independence, and the outcomes for the classroom are laid out in academic standards, and CTE task lists.  Now that you have picture in your mind about the desired outcome its time to get real.  How do you tie it all into the place where you are teaching?  You will find yourself in a place where you cannot dedicate the effort you think is required to one or the other.  That’s ok.  I remember from my summer reading book the author made it clear

“thinking outside the box is great, but in education sometimes we really need to think inside the box.”

I found this to be very true when it came to the total program.  Each place has something different to offer and you need to find out how to use that to deliver the total program.  It doesn’t matter how big your circles are as long as you try your best to live inside the three circles.

Please do not make the same mistake I made and go into your teaching experience with expectations about how the three-circle model is supposed to be implemented. 

Communicating Expectations

There is no denying that me and my cooperating teacher had some issues with clarity in this area.  BEFORE. You get to your cooperating center communicate regularly about what you will be teaching and how it should be taught.  I had to throw out all my lessons going into student teaching because they were not in the style of the normal agriculture classroom.  It made a lot of extra work for me.  Stretch yourself when you are writing the lessons ahead of time to always use a different instructional technique.

Classroom expectations and procedures, that you will put on three posters for your final presentation.  That is not enough.  Make sure your procedures are very clear, and fit each lesson you write to them.  This way you will always have students ready.  They hate surprises.  I started teaching a short course with four weeks left in my internship.  That class I was probably the most prepared to really stick to my procedures.  Within a week they were all coming in and asking for the bell work if I had forgotten to post it.  My food science class which I taught the entire time, and was somewhat laxer about it never asked about it, and I always had to remind them it was there.

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I found that the best way to prepare a lesson is to act it out in your head, or on paper beforehand.  If you do this you are going to see many of the flaws ahead of time.

Be honest, fair, and consistent with the students, they will respect that more than they fear punishment.

Every experience is different, but my students were not at the level I expected going in.  almost all of the lessons I wrote beforehand were way above their heads, and what I thought was a 42-minute lesson was sometimes two or three days.  Make sure you pay attention to this when you observe your cooperating teacher.  You have been told that you should have three objectives for each lesson.  In 42 minutes, you will be lucky if you get them to really know one or two if they are covering the same content in another class by chance.  I taught Punnet squares with genetics.  The 10th graders in my class were learning the exact same thing in biology, and it still took them 42 minutes to solve five problems after we walked through the first.  I’m not saying this to be negative.  I am only trying to make it clear that I struggled getting content to the high school level.

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Questions I was asked by #psuaged18 and didn’t already answer.

What was something you wish you had done before you began fall semester? 

I wish that I had really understood, and laid out the instructional units I was teaching.  I did this in order to meet the class requirement, but because my CT and I were not clear on expectations, once I got to Tyrone there was a lot of changing things around.  The end result is a bit of a mess.  Make sure you know exactly what you are teaching.  Know the units, and the standards/ outcomes you are working towards. It sounds like a lot but here is an example.  Lets say you are teaching animal science.  And livestock is something you are going to teach.  Make sure you are clear about how much time you will spend on livestock, and if that is something your CT even teaches.  I had a nine week class, where each week about is a different unit.  Teaching livestock production to those ninth graders was pointless.

What is some advice you have for the fall and student teaching?

Everything that’s been written here, but another tip.  Look at the spring moodles early on when you are writing your lesson plans.  Many of them require you do something in a lesson.  Demand to have access to them before the spring so you can plan accordingly.

What has been the biggest challenge of student teaching so far, and what are you doing to overcome it?

Teaching 7 preps was extremely challenging.  Don’t be afraid to use projects, and inquiry learning for students to save yourself preparation time.  Having students research and create PowerPoint slides on domesticated animals can take two days of working and a third of presentations.  This kind of lesson helps you save time for the other six classes, and in the end the students get just as much if not more out of it.

What has been the best part of student teaching so far?

Hands down the best part of student teaching has been those rare moments when a student recognizes the effort you are putting in, or really learns something from you.  I had a ninth grader say to his friend while they were building plants with paper and tape “this is the most artistic I have been all year.”  I just overheard it, but with less that 30 days of school left it’s a little sad and at the same time awesome that he is just getting those feelings now.  Granted it was probably a fair bit of drama, and I am sure he had been artistic before, it’s the feelings that count.  In my food science class I had them write lyrics to their favorite songs, but the lyrics had to be about stages of sugar production.  They really got into it, and it came out that I am a big Justin Timberlake fan.  Outside of class, and without prompting they wrote me a sugar cooking song that was to be sung to “I’m Bringing Sexy Back.”  If you don’t believe me a video of me trying to six it is floating on the internet somewhere.  It was amazing to have my students get so into one of my lessons that they worked on it without me needing to tell them to.  That is the greatest thing I think you can have happen. 

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The final lesson I learned from student teaching is the value of the little moments.  I had a student write me a very nice letter at the end of the experience.  She was always one to have lots of feelings.  She cried during a team building game because it got a little stressful.  In the letter, she said that I had a big effect on her life, and that she wanted to work harder and be better, because she knew I believed in her.  Make sure your students know you believe in them, and they will work their butts off, and give you the most rewarding experience an educator can have.

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Student Teaching is a time of transition, growth, questioning, and daily ups and downs- but after taking some time to reflect this incredible experience I've narrowed it down to the fact that it's not about me. Yes my role as a teacher is essential, but it's really about the students, the mentors and supporters, the community and culture and going back to the basics of what it takes to teach day in and day out.

 

It’s about students….

It’s about David, Bryce or Jess… (names all changed) the ones that pushed me away all semester, challenged me and some days made me so frustrated by their comments, actions or lack of actions. But they are the ones I will remember, the ones I will wonder if they stayed in school after we tried time and time again to give them opportunities to succeed. It’s about caring even though they don’t.  It's also about the ones that get just excited if not more about content and agriculture as I do.  The ones that make you laugh, make your day or make you think.  It's the students that make us work harder, and I love it. My time at Pequea Valley taught me the importance of the quote ‘people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.’ I know I need to remember I teach students, and my subject area just happens to be agriculture.


It’s about mentors….

There is a reason they don’t throw teachers right in a classroom, because mentorship is important- and I was blessed with the best. Doug Masser and Jasmine VanSant are the real MVPs. Laughing with these two and learning from them and with them was one of the best parts of this semester, because I know it doesn’t stop here, they are two people I can call in the future as I navigate being a new teacher. They let me be part of the team. The times they were silent, were necessary- for me to grow as a teacher, but also personally. In the last week watching both of them teach showed me how extremely lucky those students are to have them.

It’s about community and culture…..

One part of my teaching philosophy is all about contextually and culturally relevant teaching… it honestly came about because of the time I spent studying ESL and studying abroad, but this is so much more. I have realized that no matter where I am, or the program I lead is in- it must meet the community's needs. I could have done a flower workshop or arrangements for the nursing home, but here it made more sense to provide something free of charge at a location that exists to serve our students, and those in poverty. Place based education and culturally relevant curriculum and events look different everywhere- which means the three circle model will look a little different everywhere- and it should. And the culture at Pequea Valley is different, yet so awesome, I think I will always carry the PV pride.

 

It’s about the basics…

From Clarity of instruction, to basic directions, lab setup, check in or assessment…. It’s all about going back to the basics when something doesn’t work. It is so easy to say ‘I could have done so much better’ and in all honesty I may have been able to, but only because I have done it a few differetn ways and learned what worked and what didn’t work. Thankful for mentors that showed me the ropes and offered countless helpful hints in learning the basics.


It’s so much bigger than me, it’s about preparing students to be leaders, problem solvers and the agriculturalists our country and world needs. Thank you Pequea Valley for making me a better teacher, giving me a little sass once in awhile, and always making me laugh. With all the PV pride, Ms. Hack

 

 

I never thought it would be here, and it got here a lot faster then I thought it would.. my last day of my student teaching internship.  I came into

teaching feeling a lack of confidence in myself and now I am leaving with more self-confidence, great relationships and all of the memories that I have made at McGuffey.  I feel like the word bittersweet is over used, and doesn't explain my emotions about how I finished this experience, but it is

truly bittersweet. I am beyond excited to move onto my next journey, and I am so incredibly proud of myself for moving 6 hours away from home for 14 weeks. On the other hand, I will miss my students and I know that they will miss me. I will forever hold on to our talks in the

greenhouse, helping student who have had a bad day, and always photo-bombing their snapchats. They are

the ones who have made it worth while to me.

 

 

 

 

This student teaching internship has taught me a few new things, and here are some of them:

 

  • Students will always come first in my classroom. I want them to feel comfortable and safe. They all need to feel welcomed and loved, even in a school and educational setting.
  • Ag Teachers do more than just teach... We check on show animals, water the greenhouse on days off, make sure our kid's are okay, wipe back the tears and bring on the smiles, and most importantly help those students find their place in life and help them grow.
  • School politics are never-ending. It is so important to have a good relationship with your administrators, and make sure that everyone is on the same page. Always keep in mind the number one thing, our students.
  • Technology is changing. Always. As a teacher, it is our job to learn and know the ways that technology is changing, so we can integrated it into our classrooms.
  • Last but not least, student's won't care about what you know, where you've been or your personal experiences, until they know how much you care. Always put those kiddo's first.

Well, I can't begin to thank everyone who has helped me reach this point enough. I feel so privileged and blessed to work alongside some fantastic students and two awesome cooperating teachers. It has been quite the educational journey, McGuffey. 

Until my next teaching adventure happens, next stop exploring to find your purpose in agriculture.

 

Evelyn A. Zaleski

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