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My name is Allyson Balmer and I am a graduating senior at Penn State University in Agricultural and Extension Education. I have a confession to make: I am an agricultural educator by choice, not by chance. I have been telling myself this for the past year. I am where I am because I have a passion for teaching, agriculture, and students. I feel joy and purpose, even with the challenges, in teaching and developing students. And now I am here, at the cusp of graduation and two days away from completing my student-teaching internship. It is hard to comprehend how I feel about that. These past four years in college have felt like the longest blink-of-an-eye, but I know in my heart and soul that I am ready to move on for whatever may come in my future. Over the past couple of weeks I have been trying to begin the reflection process because if life is crazy now, it is about to become a circus with graduation, interviews, and big decisions. Looking back at what I have accomplished in 15 weeks: here are my final thoughts.


1. The Students


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When I began student-teaching, I didn't truly know how the students would take to me and feel about someone else taking over their "real" teacher's classes. I wasn't worried about it, but I wanted to make it a point to build rapport and relationships with as many students as possible. I had no idea how great these students would be and it makes leaving that much more difficult when you connected and invested in students on a personal level. The students make teaching a joy and give me purpose as an educator. Trust me, there were some really bad days when I left school and wanted to scream, was second-guessing my abilities as a teacher, and felt defeated. However, the good days far outnumbered the bad. The memories I have are worth every struggle I encountered and I have not doubt that I will carry them with me through my entire teaching career. I have learned to never take students for granted, especially the good ones who make our jobs so easy and follow our every word. "To whom much is given, much is expected." This is a two-way street. If my students give to me, I must reciprocate. This respect and loyalty is something that I treasure because my students gave and showed me so much of it. People will always talk about how teachers make such a big impact on students, which we do, but my students changed and impacted me just as much. One day at a time, they are changing my life.


2. My Cooperating Teacher


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When my cohort first got "the list" of ag teachers who were willing to take a student-teacher I thought, what makes these teachers want the extra work of mentoring a student-teacher. Not until I really started to visit schools and eventually got paired with my cooperating-teacher did I see how much they care. They care about agriculture education and protecting its future through new and beginning teachers. Our cooperating-teachers want to see us succeed during our internship and thrive in our own careers. I am forever grateful to my cooperating teacher, Gretchen Dingman, for the time and effort she has put forth and in me to make my experience positive and prepare me for after this stage of my life. Not only has she been a constant supporter, she also provided me with priceless constructive feedback so that I could set goals and improve my teaching methods and techniques. The relationship we have is one that will continue as colleagues and friends after this experience as Tri-Valley High School will always have a special place in my heart.


3. Growth


When I think about how far I have come, I am absolutely a different person than when I first started this process. The experiences that I have had, the situations that I have encountered, and the solutions I had to come up with has helped to shape me to be the educator that I am today. While student-teaching, I made a point to experiment, try different lab activities, and think outside of the box. If there was a time to do it, it was when I had a veteran teacher there to help and provide feedback. This has helped me develop varied instruction that addresses a multitude of domains and modalities that my students may have and prefer. I have also been able to learn the ropes and roles of an FFA advisor by conducting SAE visits, as well as taking students to conferences and Career Development Events. These experience are ones that have help me grow, learn, and develop into what I hope is an awesome agricultural educator.


This experience has been the most challenging mountain I have ever crossed, but I would do it all over again. I try believe that God has instilled me with a passion and purpose to teach agriculture and develop students. I am exactly where He has planned for me to be, I can feel it. I feel it with the amazing couple I was able to live with these 15 weeks rent free, with my cooperating teacher and the great relationship we have, and because of my students and how loved they have made me feel. I know that I am doing what I was made to do and am where I need to be. Now, I look to the future of applications, interviews, and big decisions to determine where God has planned for me to teach, and where I need to be.


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Sincerely, Ms. Allyson Balmer - Ag Teacher


If you would like to see my #TeachAg journey or follow my progress in the future, visit my blog: agricationstation

Thank you for taking this time to read this post! Keep teaching and preaching the greatness that is Ag Ed.

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