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Alan Green:

Welcome to Connect a podcast by the national association of agricultural educators. No matter how long you've been in the classroom, we as agricultural educators know the power that connections play in bettering ourselves as educators and strengthening our profession. Connect is a podcast by the national association of agricultural educators and works to educate listeners about NAAE resources, inform them of new and innovative practices and connect current and future agricultural educators and supporters. I'm your host, Alan Green. We are excited that you're here. So let's get started. Hi everyone and welcome back to Connect a podcast by the National Association of Agricultural Educators. For those of you who are new here, I'm Alan Green and I work as a program manager with NAAE. I am so excited that you've joined us for today's important conversation.

Alan Green:

There's no hiding the fact that we are in the midst of a difficult school year, whether you are teaching 100% online juggling a hybrid format or teaching in-person while following social distancing standards. This year has been challenging. We at the National Association of Agricultural Educators, see the hard work that you are doing, and we are inspired by the incredible things that you do everyday to strengthen our schools and communities. We want to say thank you for making magic happen every day for your students. You are truly changing lives. In this podcast episode, we'll be talking all about online learning and meeting with two agricultural educators who will share what they've learned and what's working for them as they navigate this new world of teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of focusing on what hasn't worked or what difficulties we faced, today's conversation is aimed at helping our listeners find solutions and generate new ideas that they can bring back to their classrooms and teaching methods.

Alan Green:

For this episode, we're joined by two agricultural educators who are working hard to deliver high quality instruction in both online and hybrid formats. Today we're joined by Ms. Kim O'Byrne, who teaches at Hatch middle school in Hatch, New Mexico and Mr. Jesse Faber in agricultural educator at Pontiac Township High School in Pontiac, Illinois. Kim and Jesse, thank you so much for joining us today.

Kim O'Byrne:

Thank you, Alan. It is exciting to be here. This is a whole new venue and it's pretty exciting.

Jesse Faber:

Thank you very much for the invite. I'm looking forward to the discussion.

Alan Green:

Well, again, I'm so excited to have both of you on the podcast today and having an open conversation in such a critical topic right now for teachers all across the country no matter what their school year looks like. Kim and Jesse, if you just want to start off the conversation, introduce yourself, maybe share a little bit information about where you teach and how long you've been in the classroom.

Kim O'Byrne:

All right. Well, thank you, Alan. My name is Kim O'Byrne and as we said, I teach at Hatch Valley Middle School. Hatch is the chilly capital of the world. So it is a very agricultural community. I'm a new teacher actually, because I retired after I had 28 years of education under my belt and I retired and stayed out for a year in our state you can do that. And when all of this took place, I just saw that there was a need to come back into the classroom. So the doors just opened and I walked right in. So it's been a huge learning experience for me.

Kim O'Byrne:

I teach in a middle school. I'm teaching seventh grade agriculture right now, but I also work with the high school in the eighth grade. And I teach in a very rural community. We have 1100 square miles of district and there's about 1300 kids, K through 12. It is 91% Hispanic, mostly Spanish speaking as their first language. Only 18% of those are probably proficient in math and 29% proficient in reading. We have 100% free and reduced lunch, but we have great kids and so much potential. And it's been a lot of fun to start this adventure with them.

Jesse Faber:

I'm excited to be here as well. My name is Jesse Faber and I teach in Central Illinois. I'm at Pontiac Township High School and we sit right on the interstate between St Louis and Chicago. And I'm about 70 miles Southwest of Chicago. My school district has about 670 students in it, and we have one kind of larger central town of Pontiac, which has about 12,000 people in it. And then we've got a rural area that we serve as well with some smaller communities. This is year 15 for me in the classroom, but there's been a few challenges that have come, or I guess there's some just different things that have come that made this year a little bit more unique even beyond COVID. This year, I moved from being in a two teacher program back to a one teacher program and made that adjustment while also adjusting to a new schedule in the COVID world.

Jesse Faber:

I have been in the classroom every day, the school year, but my school is split with our attendance. So we're doing a hybrid model where I see all of the students or see all of my classes, but only half of the students at a time. So I have a lot of what I call going through the groundhog day scenario of where I seem to relive the same experience multiple times as we go through it. It's been a real interesting challenge that way, and we are a nine 12 district and I have five different classes that I teach throughout the day.

Alan Green:

Awesome. Well, thank you so much for sharing both of you. Jesse, you talked a little bit already about what your school day looks like, that you're in a hybrid model. Kim, tell us a little bit about what your school day looks like. Are you in person? Are you hybrid? What is a day in the life of Kim look like right now in the classroom?

Kim O'Byrne:

Wow. So this is the hardest think I think for me to get used to, because I've always had kids in front of me. And so we have been 100% virtual since day one. I have never actually seen my kids in-person. So it's been a little bit unusual. So to start with, it was very hard for me. I was a retired teacher. I used technology, but I had never used Canvas. I had never used a Google classroom. I had never used a Bitmoji or anything like that. So it was a huge learning curve to begin with. And so I tried to, as I go, learn with the kids and learn from the kids and learn from my colleagues and from any other source that I could find. I did a lot of professional development on my own to learn these things.

Kim O'Byrne:

So trying to find ways to engage students because they sit and stare at a computer for four hours a day. So we start at 8:00 in the morning and we go through four classes and I have... We still are working on a hybrid model like Jesse said, because when we go back and we will be going back on the 8th of March. So I'm excited about that. Not all the kids will go back, only the kids that choose to at this time. But we will go back until they'll have four classes. And then we have what we call advisory for the rest of the afternoon, where we help the kids in areas that they need help. I've done a lot of practice with my pre speakers and CDE practice and that type of thing. And then the next day we repeat the same thing.

Kim O'Byrne:

So I know what Jesse's talking about when he talked about that groundhog day, because it's like, did I tell you guys this, or did I not? So it's like trying to remember what you've told who, because you do that several times a day. I'm looking forward to the in-person, we've tried to make it as hands-on as we can. We actually created these little boxes that we sent home to the students where it had some materials where we could do hands-on labs so that I could facilitate the labs from my computer into their living rooms or wherever they're at, so that they could do some hands-on things. But it's been a challenge.

Alan Green:

Jesse, is there anything else? You already mentioned about what your school day looks like, but is there anything else that you'd like to add to that question?

Jesse Faber:

I don't know. We've used a lot of different technology things and tried some different stuff. Our school actually changed our schedule at semester to try a different approach as well. When I say that, we're on what some people consider a little strange anyway, because the normal school year has us on a eight period partial block. So our days look a little bit different than what most are used to. I think it's been a really interesting adjustment, but post some challenges to really, I guess, live and things up to take the optimistic approach.

Alan Green:

Well, when we talk about online learning, I think that there's a lot out there. And when all of this started, we were introduced to a lot of new tools that we could use in a lot of new resources. But boiling down to that basic question, what do you think are some of the key factors to making online learning and online teaching effective? Whether that's 100% online like Kim or you're teaching in a hybrid model or a teaching in a format, or maybe you have some students and you're following social distancing standards. What makes online learning and teaching effective and in what should teachers be keeping in mind as they think about preparing to teach remotely or to be teaching in a hybrid model?

Kim O'Byrne:

So I'm going to start here with first, you have to get them online. We had a huge problem with them not even showing up. I think they thought that it was just for fun or whatever they weren't taking it serious. So I think the first thing that I had to do was I had to make it engaging. I had to make it fun. I had to make them want to come. That was the first hurdle. And once they were like, wow, this is fun. And they were learning by accident. Then I had to show to them the why. And I think that's the big key is though, why do I need to know this. Even in middle school. So it engaging fun that I had to make them want to come and they had to know that, why? Why do I need to be here? Why do you care? Why do you care if I'm here? So it was making that social and emotional connection even through the computer.

Jesse Faber:

I think for me that a lot of the principles that work in a hybrid model are the same principles that are just good teaching. When I found, and actually I had the opportunity for some reflexivity on this, this last summer because we ended up finishing last school year in a really crazy, all of a sudden, we go from Thursday and then a Thursday in March to, we don't see students again for the rest of the school year. And that put us all in a real big scramble I think. I think there were a lot of teachers who were trying to figure out what can I do here that helps to continue to be good teaching practice and mostly, show the students how much we care about them and making sure that we're still there to educate the whole student that way.

Jesse Faber:

So I had the chances, I took a couple of classes this summer to look at how my professors in the classes I was taking and organized some asynchronous courses as well and what they did. And so when I think about some of those very basic ones, making sure that we're clear with what we're trying to do, make sure that we communicate in a way that students can follow in an organized fashion because we won't have that chance to make those corrections in class and live that we might have otherwise because they're not going to have that contact time. Really be intentional with how we utilize what time we do have with those students, I think is a really important piece.

Jesse Faber:

And so to break that down just a little bit more, what that means for me is that every week, I actually shifted over our school. I have been in a learner management program called Moodle. We've been in there for about over a decade, I guess, as far as what we were using. And I had not switched over to Google classroom just yet, even though many of my colleagues had encouraged such and really talked about it. I just hadn't gone through those steps to move all of those materials that I loaded up in my other courses. So this year I did move into Google classroom and try to be very intentional with how I set up each week and how I communicated with students that way, so that they knew here's what we're going to do with the contact time we do have together. Here's what I want you to complete in the remote time. A couple of things looked very different. I'll use one of the examples. I'm one that during my units, I would have students who would keep their notebook. And then at the end of the unit, I do the notebook check. And so we basically have one grade for the notebook check as we did our summative assessment at the end of that unit.

Jesse Faber:

Well, that had to look different because I broke each one of those components of that out. And so instead of having one notebook check at the end, that would be 20 points. Maybe I've got four different five point assignments as we go to help those students who maybe missed one week or maybe they missed one thing and instead of them looking at it and to break it down so that it was in real digestible, very clearly identified chunks for them to be able to approach. The other thing that I really tried to focus on was being intentional with what I ask of them in terms of, if I was going to ask them to do something outside of class, to make sure that it was structured in a way that they'd be able to basically take down those barriers that aren't really important to the content components or to the activity components.

Jesse Faber:

So, when I go back to what you said, a lot of intentionality, and I think the final part is making sure that there's time in there where we communicate with the students, just in terms of being those teachers that connect with kids and about the things, because there's a lot of them that are going through things that are unfamiliar and a lot of them that have so many different challenges and we could go into a whole another podcast just on challenges. And I'm even going to say the inequity of challenges that some of our students have. And I think specifically back, I've had several moments where you have that student where yeah, they've gone fully remote, but when they're fully remote, they're the ones that are at home with their younger siblings having to help their younger siblings get through elementary school, that's remote. And then we're expecting things of them as well as teachers of have them in the high school classes.

Jesse Faber:

And how does that look different? Because I think that we have to step back and understand that many of our students have things that pose those challenges to them at home as well. And so how do we help to navigate and continue to help them grow?

Kim O'Byrne:

I was just going to say, Jesse, I couldn't agree with you more and you bring up such a great point. I have students in my classroom that aren't even students yet because my middle school students have to babysit their younger siblings because there's nowhere else to take them. And so I have some four year olds that I have in class that we always try to tie in just a little bit, but it's fun because then at least they're getting a chance to learn and you're meeting that student where they're at and what they need. So they're not split into trying to decide whether they need to take care of little brother or sister or whether they can be online. So there are a lot of challenges that way and meeting the students where they're at, I think is hugely important.

Jesse Faber:

I think one thing to add to that, because as I was thinking here as Kim was speaking on that. One perspective that I think really helped me grow as a teacher preparing for this year was last spring. I have a six and an eight year old. So they were in kindergarten and first grade last spring and I was trying to help them through remote learning. And I remember reaching out to their principal at one point, they're in a small school and I know their principal well, and I go, is there any way you can give us just a little bit more guidance as parents trying to help our kids, it wasn't that we couldn't help with the concepts. It was that I was struggling a little bit to make sure that I wanted to teach that, use an example, math. I want to teach the first grader math, the way that their teacher wanted them to learn it.

Jesse Faber:

And when I looked at their worksheets, I was sometimes confused by the vernacular that they were using. And if I was going through that as a parent, and I feel like I've got a pretty strong background in math courses with first grade math, how does that look for high school students? How does that look for someone else that might not have some of those resources that I do? And so I really tried to be cognizant of that from the teacher perspective as well with my communication that's going on.

Alan Green:

Absolutely. And I was just going to add that, I think I saw on Facebook, a page that I follow, someone posted that this is the year to show grace in the classroom and to show grace when it comes to the expectations that we have for our students. So both of you thank you for sharing those experiences and that's definitely true. Can you mention it a little bit earlier, but you mentioned that really the key to online learning for you has been to find ways to get students motivated and engaged in online learning. I'm wondering if you two could provide a little bit more about how you go about doing that. How you go about creating a personal experience, a motivating experience and an engaging experience with students who may be are behind a computer screen. Or Jesse for you, maybe you are in a classroom where everyone is keeping their distance, how do you make it engaging? How do you make it exciting for students even when everything is so much different this year?

Kim O'Byrne:

So, Alan, for me, this has been one of my greatest learning curves, I believe. So it does come back to good practices, I think, and finding ways to hook those kids and make things relevant. And so I found a lot of great online tools. I've used a lot of great tools to help enhance what I'm doing. And sometimes I've used just simple things. For example, I took my Bitmoji and I actually laminated it and I put it next to different plants and I created a little storyline and we created a crime scene. And so kids had to investigate and look, and I played music that went along with it, and it was just tying them in or bringing them in, drawing them into this story that I was creating. And they wanted to come. I had kids that weren't showing up to class, were suddenly coming to class when I created these stories that they wanted to be a part of. They wanted to see what was going to happen next.

Kim O'Byrne:

And I think that was the way for me to be able to draw them in. And if I had been in a classroom, I would be setting up my classroom and creating this story that when they walked in, they would see what was going on and I didn't have that option online. So I had to find ways to do it virtually in the best way that I could to be able to draw them in so that they wanted to be a part of the learning. And it seems to be working. We've even had some high school kids showing up to my classes with their siblings, not just getting on. And like I said, some of the younger siblings, so it's been fun to see how it's actually working and how those kids are showing up and being a part it's like they want to be a part of it. And I think that's the big part. You have to make them want to be a part of it.

Jesse Faber:

I use a little bit of a focus. And I think you brought up a great point of the importance of showing grace. I had a real high focus on making sure that we didn't waste any contact time, so to speak. And as I looked at that, I thought a little bit about all those things that we've... Even going back to, as I say, in teacher school, where we took all those ideas and we took those principles about how long the attention span is and what we're looking at. And I tried to be very focused on what are the things that are engaging that they can do from home, that they have the capacity, they have the resources, the abilities to do from home. One of the reasons I use that is one of the labs that I have my introduction to agriculture students do is we always do in class. We do a soil profile lab and I do use the case curriculum, but I was doing this one in a way even before that. And so when I have them get a soil sample and mix it with water and shake it up and let it settle, I'm like, that's something that hopefully we can do that remote learning, and they can do that from home and then be able to show whatever it looks like in their particular home.

Jesse Faber:

I tried to really think about and utilize the time that we had in my classroom for stuff that couldn't be replicated for instance, outside of the classroom. My landscaping, I have a horticulture course called landscape and turf grass. I made them the promise because as they were coming back to school, even in their partial days, I said every day that we can be outside, we're going to be outside. And so we did landscape maintenance all around the front of the school and that effectively took about the first two months of our contact time. And we re-did flower bed and we re-landscape and took care of a group of the trees and mulch them and did that type of thing where it was very hands-on. And that was really my hope even to the point that in a world where everybody has to wear mask now. As I mentioned, I went to one teacher program and so I switched classrooms. Well, my old classroom, they let me keep my lab tables. And so I put them in the back of my [inaudible 00:21:37] shop.

Jesse Faber:

And so basically on days where we could, I let the kids go out, we had an outdoor classroom outside the back of my [inaudible 00:21:43] shop, where as long as we got spread out enough that let the kids have a little relief from the mask. As long as we met the standards and we weren't moving around, and more than six feet apart, they could take off their mask if they had a table themselves. So we did stuff like that. One of the other parts that I did in some of my classes, I'm a big fan of getting out of my building. As I mentioned, we're on a partial block. So in a typical time, we have 90 minute periods once a week for all my classes and tour. We're all typically given a bus and we'll go somewhere and maybe it's taking a group out to the local forest preserve. Maybe it's just taking the crop science kids to a local agribusiness and tour it. Maybe it's going out to a local farm, whatever those happen to be. We try to get out of the building a lot. And I couldn't do that.

Jesse Faber:

When I say that, even though we were in-person, our school had the policy, we couldn't go to public places. So even though there's an equipment dealer that's three blocks away, we couldn't even walk there for a experience because they're a public business. And so I said, what can we do? And I started doing a lot of Zoom. When I say that, and when I looked at the Zoom, [inaudible 00:22:52] Zoom, where you can go anywhere in the world. And we did some of the local places that have been awesome to work with all through the years for those same types of tours, even though we couldn't be onsite, they would still give us the tours and give us some of that experience. But then we took it even a little bit further and I was able to go to a number of different States in terms of getting the peak into agribusiness there. And we even had one guest speaker that came to us from South America to talk about, we're actually looking at regenerative agriculture, my crop science students, but I guess I'd have to go back and look at how many different States we went to.

Jesse Faber:

But saw everything from a nitrogen production facility out in Nebraska to another FFA chapter that has a CSA up in Minnesota to a cotton seed production facility in Texas. And so tried to use those as a means for my students to engage in a way that that was unique, impossible because of what we were doing. And I thought that was really important too, as we look at. I think the one other thing I tried to do as many, like where I could pull a YouTube video or pull some types of video clips in and have that be part of what students engage with more so than some of the other sit-down stuff [inaudible 00:24:11]. I say sit down, instead of reading off of a computer, trying to find some different ways to do that.

Alan Green:

That's really cool. Jesse, Kim and I were talking before you hopped on the call that, as much as embracing all of this new technology has been a challenge for teachers. There's also so many opportunities that have been opened up because of the restrictions, because of the new technology, the opportunity to connect with other FFA chapters with Agribusinesses are truly endless. My next question. So we as agricultural educators know that our classrooms are hands-on and interactive and a lot of teachers out there are really struggling with adapting their classroom or their curriculum to either an online format or to a social distance format, if you will. They're struggling because they're missing that hands-on component that really makes learning come alive. How would you guide them? What advice would you give them as they try to adapt their curriculum to meet either online or a hybrid format?

Kim O'Byrne:

So I would have to say, don't be afraid to think outside of the box to problem solve using creative solutions. We get stuck in the way we always do things. And I think sometimes we have to open up our minds to what's possible and then what is something that we can use that they might have. And I think we've touched on that a little bit, but I know for instance, it was crucial to me to get materials to my kiddos because in this community, it is very low income and so they don't have a lot. And so I wanted to be able to use things that I knew would be there regardless. And we created these boxes and put materials in them that I knew that they wouldn't have, but that we could use other things. So for example, Jesse talked about the soil profile and that's a great example because you can get soil outside anywhere and they can look at the differences between those and the similarities as well.

Kim O'Byrne:

So being able to put things in their hands that they might not have, and then let them use things that they do have. You have to be creative about how you go about doing those labs and maybe it doesn't look like it used to look and maybe it's even better. And that's one of the things that Alan and I talked about a little earlier, you have to step outside of where you feel comfortable and be able to look at what's possible, not what's always been done.

Jesse Faber:

I think that's a great summation of it as well. I think that's a great way of looking at it and I actually hope and I do believe that there's a number of the practices that I've started doing and things that I've started utilizing that I'm going to carry with me even in the post COVID world. I think they're just once again, just good practice. And as we look at it, I think more towards some of my colleagues have done that, have been more remote than I have. And I think about their creative ways of helping students to exist and to utilize technology in a way, perhaps that they haven't used it before. Being able to use different platforms. And I know that there's a laundry list of them out there. One of them that I used this fall was, and I felt like there were times where it worked really well, but I also know that it was a barrier for some students in the world of Flipgrid because that had them recording themselves instead.

Jesse Faber:

And when I think of this, I really tried to move away from the reading and the writing component, which I know has value, but I sure gathered that they were getting that from a lot of other places. They had teachers who were just giving them worksheets and everything was just reading and writing. And so having a little break from that was a value. Another thing was to me was really differentiated and that goes back a little bit is maybe I'd have them do, instead of necessarily objective assessment type things, doing it more where they get to be open-ended and get to describe what their experience was with it. And that goes to what Kim was saying is each one of them, they're going to have a different experience than what another student is if they're doing it from their home, because they're doing it in a different setting. And so if we don't adjust what were our expectations in terms of our assessment are, then we're missing something there in my mind.

Jesse Faber:

And by giving students a couple of different options in terms of how they submit it, but really focused a lot of my assessments on them explaining and describing what they got from it and trying to pick out those high points because they're all experiencing it in a different way when they're remote from their own situation. I think that's really where I think about some of the biggest ones to think of one of the things that I did, I do a wildlife ecosystem project in my intro class every year, and I enjoy watching what they create from a 3D ecosystem.

Jesse Faber:

And so that was another one of those things that worked really well for at home activity. Making models out of craft type stuff regardless of which class it was, was something else that seemed to work well from an at-home piece, or if you were able to have that, where they have that assignment that they did and what time I had with them, but then they could really go and do this last part of it, where they applied and explain themselves and have that be that at home piece where really what I tried to do with some intentionality, I guess.

Kim O'Byrne:

I would just like to add to that just a little bit. You mentioned something that I think is so important. So one of the things I've used them in the past, but I really started utilizing them and those were choice boards and that's what I used for my assessments. And those choice boards allow the kids to differentiate to their strengths. So I was able to assess them where they felt most comfortable. And I think that has really helped in the engagement piece and also in them feeling comfortable and confident in the material that they're learning and that they are showing their progress or their proficiency in. And so the other thing I wanted to mention is Jesse mentioned his wildlife. And years ago, when I first became an agriscience ambassador, I worked with Rich Miguel who is actually from Illinois and... Or Indiana, I guess. I'm sorry. And he and I actually created a COVID project before COVID actually happened, but we created this collaboration between his students and my students in a wildlife situation.

Kim O'Byrne:

There were three problems that he had in his community that had to deal with wildlife and I had three problems in mine. And then we had the students get together and work collaboratively through Google classroom and through Google docs to be able to solve this problem and then they have to present it to people within their community. And it was phenomenal to see how kids would problem solve and work, because we were overcoming many differences. For example, the time difference. It was hard because the kids were never on at the same time. And so they had a lot of issues. In Indiana, they had a lot of snow and the kids would be like, they didn't do anything well it's because they haven't been at school for several days now. And so it was interesting then, because I think that helps me with my mindset to be able to see that there's a lot of possibilities in what you can do and what you can accomplish. You just have to think outside of that box a little bit.

Alan Green:

And both of you have mentioned it so far already. In regards to simulating science labs particularly case labs where a lot of the learning is happening in the science lab and students are doing the experiments. How are you still providing that hands-on experience other than just recording the labs? Do you have any recommendations for how to deliver the science labs and the hands-on component, even though you're teaching in a virtual format or a hybrid format?

Kim O'Byrne:

Well, there's a lot of great tools out there. For example, he mentioned Flipgrid. I've had a few of my students film certain aspects of something that they were doing and they would have to post it and then other kids would comment on it or build on that. So it gave them opportunity to peer review and help and move ahead. So that was one option. So even just having them show you how to do something while you're in a Zoom, doing hands-on right there, show me that you can do that. And they enjoy being able to do that. It's really hard or at least for me, it's been really hard to get our kids to turn on their cameras. So you're basically looking at little icon all on your computer screen. And sometimes it's really hard to get feedback as a teacher.

Kim O'Byrne:

So you have to find little ways that you can get that feedback from them. And I understand, some of them can't turn their cameras on because of the conditions at home or whatever. And so being able to find other ways. So we found emojis to be able to communicate their feedback or to show me how they feel by putting something in the chat or sharing something. So there's lots of different ways that I've had to learn and I've had some great examples. Like I said, I came back as a new teacher, so I'm learning so much this year, but it's been great. And those tools, I agree, I will carry up a lot of what I've learned into post COVID.

Jesse Faber:

I think for me, it goes back to the intentionality that's been mentioned here a couple of times. As you look in, we do use a lot of the case curriculum. I use in a number of my classes and even my classes that I don't have specific case curriculum for, I really appreciate that model and use that style for all of my courses. When I say that, I'm going to use an example is that I've been very focused with my students to preview what they have. And actually when I talk about the planning and purpose for those that know me best are going to laugh at this, I think because, me sitting here talking about structure and planning very specifically is not necessarily been my calling card for my 15 years in the classroom, but what I do every week is I post the entire week module. And with that, I give them a to-do list that [inaudible 00:34:53] all the stuff that there is for week.

Jesse Faber:

I also told my students to try and keep things somewhat organized. And also in my mind, I said, there is going to be one due date a week. A one time that anything is due and anything for that week is going to be due on a Monday. I said, it's the only due date that you need to worry about. And so the reason I did that is because with our hybrid, without going into the details of it, I get to see every student on Monday. And so it gives me a chance for them to answer any questions and to follow up before we have a deadline. To use a specific example of how I do this, I try and preload stuff for my students.

Jesse Faber:

So if we're going to try and do some labs, I'll look at them and say, here's what we're going to try and do in our brief time together as we're out in the lab. So in order to be able to do that, you need to be prepared to this point and to use a case model for that. You need to make sure that you've already been through the purpose that you've done some pre-work in terms of the procedure, so that when you walk in here, you can put on the equipment and off you go instead of us having to go through it all together. And when we've been able to do that, it's really worked well and my students have responded.

Jesse Faber:

One thing that I've noticed and might just be here at my school, but I've had a few colleagues that have pointed this out as well. Kids are more engaged when they show up to the classroom now. [inaudible 00:36:15] half as much as what they normally would be. The classrooms are half as full as what they normally would be. And I have had zero discipline issues this year. And I've had pretty well zero times where I've had to get a student to wake up and join in, so to speak. And so those things have made those parts of it a little bit easier, but when we're going into do those things in the lab, it hasn't taken near as much convincing.

Alan Green:

Now, shifting gears just a little bit. Let's talk about FFA involvement. Several teachers are also struggling with getting students excited about FFA and getting them involved in the organization and different programs. What's been working for you. Are your students still actively searching for those involvement opportunities? How have you been able to keep students excited about FFA during these challenging times?

Kim O'Byrne:

Okay. So Alan, my situation is a little bit unique in that they haven't had a program at the middle school where I've been for a very long time. So it's brand new to my kids. So with it being new, I pretty much just encourage like, you guys, you've got to do this. It's so much fun. It's going to help you in the future. So we have a lot of those types of conversations. Plus it's helped that so far, all of my kids that have competed have been successful. And so when the kids see that success and they see those kids having fun and the kids come back and they say, oh, it was so much fun and I had a great time, it sell itself. I try to make sure that the kids feel like... Even if they're not competing, just learning these things is going to be worthwhile.

Kim O'Byrne:

We just had a state officer visit today and it was great. It was on Zoom. We had 39 kids present at this Zoom meeting and she said, I was one of the biggest in the state. And it was so exciting because the kids felt like they were a part of something bigger and they felt like they belonged. And I think it's that sense of belonging and that sense of getting to do something [inaudible 00:38:29] and to do those things. I think it really makes a difference. And my kids so far are excited to be able to get to be a part of that. So for me right now, at this level and at this stage in the game so far, it's been fairly easy to convince them to get involved.

Jesse Faber:

It's really hard. I'm going to add a little bit to that, but I think I could almost cut it off right there. It's just really hard. And right now, there's the mix of those students that should be flying high and excited for wrapping up and outstanding FFA career. And they felt like they were just missing out on so many of those things starting way back last March. And it was really hard to get into it and it required a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of energy to try and get us going. We have not had much participation in competitions just yet. We've gotten several FFA activities off the ground that we've been able to execute. We've actually had some success and had some students take some pride in a couple of basically Zoom centric, FFA activities.

Jesse Faber:

We did one last may that went over really well. We're really proud of how that one shook out. We did another leadership event for some middle schoolers in October that went really well. We had to modify it big time from what we had done before, but I think that we executed that one fairly decently. I will say this, and I hope that some of the state and national level things that have taken place to provide more access to more students, I'll use it. virtual national convention does not take the place of a normal year convention, but a virtual national convention made all those things more accessible to all of my students. Another thing that was done is our state, the state officers did their chapter visits and did a series of those online. And in Illinois, we have section officer teams and our section officer team here in our particular section did an awesome job in terms of more of a recorded leadership thing. And those were done well and provided more access, I think to all of my students.

Jesse Faber:

I'm nervous. I don't get nervous often. I am a little nervous in terms of what this is going to look like in terms of moving forward. But one thing that I did do our typical recruitment time is actually wrapping up right now, normally in January. And one of the things that I did for my introduction [inaudible 00:41:04] class again, was to focus a little more on marketing and in the business sense of it from an agriculture topical area, but I introduced some Canva, Canva online, which is a graphic design program for those that don't know. And one of my friends and colleagues informed me that the Canva pro account is free for educators and not just that, I could set up all of my students into it for free.

Jesse Faber:

And so that let them go in and I told them, just make some graphics that represent you. And what that also allowed me to do is not only were they building some skills and focusing on principles of marketing and sales, but they were also really focusing at this time of year on why did they join in the first place? What were the reasons that they came into the [inaudible 00:41:49] program that they were looking forward to and how to highlight that. And so when I think about that, it was able to bring their minds back to it and talk about it openly too, even though they feel like they're missing out on some stuff, there's still some things to hold on to.

Alan Green:

So as we wrap up our conversation tonight, we know that COVID-19, online learning hybrid learning has really taken a large toll on teachers and mental health and we could have an entire episode just talking about mental health as it relates to COVID. As we wrap up tonight's conversation, my last question for you is this, as veteran teachers, what would you say to teachers who are struggling right now, particularly early career teachers who can't seem to find the light at the end of the tunnel during these times, or who are really struggling to find joy in the work that they do. What would you say to them? Do you have any words of advice as they try to navigate these difficult times to get through the school year? Any words of wisdom as they navigate these difficult times?

Kim O'Byrne:

So these are really tough times for everybody. And I think these are uncharted waters that none of us were really prepared for. And so I do mentor several new teachers. And one of the things that I tell them is that they have to take care of themselves and they have to reach out when they need help. That sometimes means setting boundaries and sticking to those boundaries and knowing what you can do and what you can't do or shouldn't do. And I think it's taking care of yourself. So one of the things that I do in between my classes, I get up and I do little seven minute workouts, just so that I can get my blood pumping and make my brain work again. And so that I feel better because if I sit here at this desk for some time, it's 10 to 12 hours a day, literally I have that many meetings. And so I have to make sure that I'm taking care of myself.

Kim O'Byrne:

And you have to know that what you're doing matters. And I think that, that's the big one right there for me. I could have stayed out. I didn't have to come back, but I felt like students needed teachers who cared. And if nothing else, if they just know that I care and that I'm there for them. So at this point in the game, if they're learning, that's fantastic. I'm ecstatic, but I do want them to know that I care and that there's somebody there for them. And I think teachers need to know that they're making a difference, even though they feel like it's not the same. We can't measure. It's like measuring apples and oranges. And we can't compare those two. We can't compare what we did in the past to what we do now. And I think we have to... Again, I love that, show yourself some grace, and we have to realize that we're all in this together and we're here for each other and reach out to people when you need it.

Jesse Faber:

I would echo a number of the things that Kim said. And I smirk at the question you ask here, Alan. And I think about that from the energy perspective. I've joked a little and some of my closest friends, I even started using the phrase a little bit that I consider myself an anti martyr. And the reason that I joke about that is that I think that we need to focus on the joy that we have and we need to keep focused on what that joy is that brought us into the classroom in the first place. Because as teachers, I don't disagree at all with what Kim said on taking care of yourself, but a lot of that happens with just being conscious and being intentional with those things going on around you.

Jesse Faber:

And so to dig into that just a little bit deeper, I think that we have students that need us to be there and we need to be able to bring that positivity to their world as well. And so, however we find that, is something that's very much that we need to figure out and don't be afraid to reach out. A few of the things that I did, I worked with some pre-service teachers and did some teacher panels that I really enjoyed that were all done virtually. Me and a couple of my colleagues started doing some early career Zoom, happy hours for some early career teachers just to give them a place to connect and be able to do that. And when I say that the idea was to help others, but it was reinvigorating for me. Something that I got from one of my friends, and I'll give Riley a shout out, because we were on Zoom last March and I saw him and he was just feverously writing while we were on a Zoom together and just visiting. And it made me think, and he was talking about how he was writing cards to his students.

Jesse Faber:

And so I went on Amazon and I bought one of those cheap kits or cheap boxes of cards that there's like 200 and something in there. Probably when I'm feeling some of the most negative stuff that's wearing on me, I'll look and see where there's a student that probably needs a card to send home. And I have sent more cards in the last nine months than I probably have in the last ever, just ever in general. But when I sit down and I write a card to hopefully make one of my students, who's gone on quarantine, hopefully brighten their day a little bit, it makes me feel better. That's something that works for me and it has a positive effect across the board.

Jesse Faber:

So, I'm hoping that we have a lot of teachers that will focus on that. Probably one of my biggest concerns and so I'll say that. The world of social media where I see colleagues and friends that basically, and this is where the anti-matter comes from, put out there for the world to see how tough things are. I think back to, if I was a first year teacher and I'm seeing experienced teachers out there talking about how tough it is, then maybe I should be thinking it's tough too. And I just don't think that's fair to them. I think that we have to find ways to do it that aren't necessarily going to negatively impact some of those that are seeing it happen. And by going on is when we look as experienced teachers and maybe leaders within our profession, if we're the ones out there telling early career teachers how tough it is, then even if they're not having a tough time, eventually they're going to think they should be having a tough time.

Jesse Faber:

And I think we need to take care of each other that way, and we need to be out there and help and find those things that really go back to what I said originally. Find and focus on that joy in the profession. And that's not just during the COVID time. I think looking at it and making sure that as we operate as professionals and even in our personal world, continuing to find those things that bring us joy, those things that bring us energy that we feed off are important to focus on. And sometimes I actually told some students this year when I was coaching on some livestock reasons where she was just not bringing the energy. And I said, well, if you don't feel inspired, then fake it and fake it to the point that the official sitting in the room can't tell when you're faking and when you're not. And at some point you might not even know and you almost twist yourself into it. And so I think sometimes forcing ourselves and having that power over how we look at things ourselves can be really beneficial to how we approach the day.

Kim O'Byrne:

Jesse, you just reminded me of a story I told my kids today. Do you know the story of the little tiny frogs?

Jesse Faber:

I do not.

Kim O'Byrne:

So there are little tiny frogs that are a little community and they're little bitty guys and they decide they want to have a competition to climb up the tower. And so they start trying to jump in the tower and the crowds yelling, you can't do it, give up. Don't try. You're wasting your time. And so these little frogs keep going and eventually they start falling off. No, we can't do this. And then there's one little frog and he's the only one left in the crowds yelling, give it up, man, you can't do this. And eventually he made it to the top. And when they went over to tell him, man, how did you do this? We didn't think you could do that. And they found out he was deaf. And the moral of the story is, when you start hearing, you can't do this. You're too young, you're too old, we don't have the tools to do that, we don't have the means to do that, turn a deaf ear to it because we can do it. So thank you for saying that, Jesse. I think it's important.

Alan Green:

And what a great note to end our conversation. And I bet any teacher out there, anyone who's listening, you can do it. You do have what it takes. Yes, these times are challenging. They're pushing us, but you have what it takes and you're making a difference every day. Kim and Jesse, thank you so much for sharing your insight and the knowledge in this topic. And we appreciate the incredible work that you two are doing every day for our students and for our profession. Thank you again and take care.

Jesse Faber:

Thank you Alan.

Kim O'Byrne:

Yes. Thank you very much.

Alan Green:

Thank you for joining us for this episode of Connect, a podcast by the National Association of Agricultural Educators. It's always hard to say goodbye, but we'll be back with more episodes to help you build even more connections to help you grow as a professional. If you like what you've heard, we'd love to have you subscribe, rate or give us a review on iTunes or whatever platform you use so we can help connect more agricultural educators through our podcast. Until next time.

NAAE Connect Podcast | National Association of Agricultural Educators 

 

Alan Green:

Welcome to Connect, a Podcast by the National Association of Agricultural Educators. No matter how long you've been in the classroom, we as agricultural educators know the power that connections play in bettering ourselves as educators and strengthening our profession. Connect is a Podcast by the National Association of Agricultural Educators, and works to educate listeners about NAAE resources, inform them of new and innovative practices, and connect current and future agricultural educators and supporters. I'm your host, Alan Green, we are excited that you are here, so let's get started.

Alan Green:

Hi there, and welcome back to Connect, a Podcast by the National Association of Agricultural Educators. And more specifically, welcome to our first Podcast episode for 2021. If you're new here, we invite you to check out our previous Podcast episode, and subscribe on iTunes, Spotify, or Google Play. NAAE is excited to keep the conversations going in our Connect Podcast, and we're looking forward to sharing information on a variety of topics that are important to you as current and future agricultural educators. In today's episode, we'll be having an open conversation about an important topic right now in schools all across the country.

Alan Green:

The importance of creating a safe and inclusive classroom learning environment for all students, and more specifically in agricultural education. We as educators know the difference that agricultural education makes in the lives of our students, and how it can transform their futures. But while we have the best intentions, sometimes our classrooms, our learning environments, and our practices as educators aren't always inclusive. We want to make sure that our classrooms are safe places where all students feel welcome, safe and celebrated, as their true authentic selves.

Alan Green:

When it comes to inclusion, diversity and equity in agricultural education, we have important work to do.And agricultural education organizations like the National FFA organization and NAAE are working to create and implement strategic plans and roadmaps to make everything we do more inclusive, diverse and equitable for all. Today, we'll be Zooming in on this topic and talking with two agricultural educators and NAAE members, who are committed to making their classrooms and programs a more inclusive space for all students, Mr. Riley Hintzsche, and Ms. Sabrina Stearns-Davis.

Alan Green:

Mr. Riley Hintzsche is an agricultural educator at Streator Township High School in Streator, Illinois, and Ms. Sabrina Stearns-Davis is an agricultural educator at Arabia Mountain High School Academy of Engineering, Medicine and Environmental Studies, just outside of Atlanta, Georgia. Riley and Sabrina, thank you so much for joining us today for this critical conversation.

Riley Hintzsche:

No problem. Thank you for having us. I'm excited to be here. How about you, Sabrina?

Sabrina Stearns-Davis:

I'm so excited to be here. Yay!

Alan Green:

Riley and Sabrina, if you just want to start the conversation by sharing a little bit of information about yourselves and your programs, and maybe some key information that our listeners should know about you and your programs, as it relates to inclusion, diversity and equity in your classrooms.

Riley Hintzsche:

We appreciate it. Thank you, Alan. I'm going to pass it over to Sabrina as I was raised, women should always have the opportunity to go first. So Sabrina, I'm going to give it to you.

Sabrina Stearns-Davis:

All right. Thank you, Riley. Well, first of all my name is Sabrina Stearns-Davis andI have been teaching for the last, I think I said 23, 24 years, I don't know which one, take a pick. But I believe I've been teaching all my life because my parent, my mother, who is a vocational back in the day, vocational CTAE teacher, who taught business typing. And I've been in her classroom, so I know teaching and I know how to teach. This love I have for agricultural started when I was young. No, I wasn't raised on a farm. No, I didn't have all the other things and do all this with cows and chickens and pasture land. I just hung on my grandparent's farm and my dad had a garden in the back.

Sabrina Stearns-Davis:

I have a love for animals. I've had so many in my life. I have a love of teaching. Like I said, when you're playing with your friends, I was always the teacher. So the two meshed together and here I am, this agriculture teacher and I love my job. I do a lot things by trial and error. I don't know everything, so I tend to, hey, if it doesn't work this time I'm going to try something different and make sure it works the next time so everybody understands it, including myself because I'm still a work-in-progress. My school, the Arabia Mountain High School is a magnet program for ... Or magnet school for math and science students.

Sabrina Stearns-Davis:

And we have various programs there, mine which is pretty much the smallest. I have a total of, I think it's 80 students total in the program. And from those 80 students and 99.9% of them, or we're not going to say 99.9, we're going to say 100% are all African American students. If I was to break that down, I would have 70% female and 30% male. And if I was going to break that down, I have 99.9% who are truly African-American students and the other being Nigerians. And when you see us, we all look alike but we are a little different. We are a little different. I think it was pretty much me. Let's take over the Riley. Riley?

Riley Hintzsche:

Thank you, Sabrina. And thank you for that great introduction. What I enjoyed and what I really enjoy is listening to your story and being like, "Oh, I've done a little of that." Or, "Hey, my grandma had a garden too." And comparing those. And I think that's important when we do talk about diversity and inclusion and living your authentic self. And so I think we'll get into that a little bit more, but a little bit about me. I am a white gay male teaching agricultural education. And I hold that very proudly. And the only reason I say that is because I was once told that, "You're gay, you can't do anything in agriculture." And for a very long time, I did believe that.

Riley Hintzsche:

So a little background of me and how I got to where I am, I grew up in a family of teachers. I call it the family blessing and the family curse all the same one. And my parents are both teachers, my mom and dad. My mom was a PE teacher and my dad was an Ag teacher. And so they both taught in the same district. So my dad would often get a lot of students than my mom had. So that was really cool in comparison to being able to hear stories of students and how they grew up and how they aged and everything that they became. So, growing up my parents said I would be one of two things, and that was either going to be a veterinarian or a teacher.

Riley Hintzsche:

And I started with the veterinarian track and it progressed over to the teacher track. I accepted my position at Streator Township High School in 2014, and it really wasn't what I expected it to ever be. Not that that's anything negative or positive it just ... It really wasn't. I fell into a place where I was embraced for who I was both from faculty, staff, students, and community. And that has been embraced over the last few years. And that's really, really helped me because it's learned that I can live my authentic self, which is letting people know that I am gay and letting people know that that's just who I am. And I have no problem with saying that.

Riley Hintzsche:

And I'm going to give you an example, I have this little drawer in my room that I bought this year to be a little more COVID friendly and it's rainbow in color. And I just put it all together and shoved it in the corner and all the colors were out of order. And one of my other students came over and reorganized it in the middle of class. And I looked at her in front of the entire class I said, "I'm gay, but I'm not that gay." She had reorganized it in rainbow color. And it was just a joke and everybody in the classroom knew that that's who I was and it was okay and I didn't care. And so there's nothing negative with that, and that's just who I am.

Riley Hintzsche:

So with that being said, I teach at a school that is diverse. I have African-American students, I have Asian students, I have white, Hispanic all the above, but I think it's important that our diversity is much deeper than just this color of our skin. And that's something that I truly try to embrace and understand when students walk my classroom and try to get them to say, or to see that their diversity does not make them any different than anybody else, it makes them a stronger person.

Alan Green:

Absolutely. Well, I am beyond excited to be chatting with both of you on such an important topic. When I first reached out a couple of weeks ago on just the excitement that both of you had about, the information that you had to share and the lessons that you've learned. We know that equity and inclusion and diversity are important and are at the forefront of what we do as agricultural educators. But I'm just wondering why is this topic important to you and your daily work as an agricultural educator?

Sabrina Stearns-Davis:

Well-

Riley Hintzsche:

That's a very ... Go ahead, Sabrina.

Sabrina Stearns-Davis:

No, you go ahead and say your comment.

Riley Hintzsche:

So, Alan, I reflect on that very deeply as a human and as a teacher. And I go back to when I was growing up, I was an agricultural education student, my dad was my teacher. I had another teacher as well, and then also I went to a very large high school. So I went from a student or a school of a hundred kids, K through eight to over a thousand kids in high school. And so it was a big developmental change. And I was known as the gay kid or ... And there's others in the school too, but I was one of them. And I really struggled with the fact that I would be involved in something or doing something, and I would be made fun of for being gay or I would be the last person to be talked to or all the above.

Riley Hintzsche:

Or something would happen and the teacher wouldn't do anything about it. And I really reflect back on this experience now that I've been teaching is, in the mid 2000s teachers were not trained to deal with things like that. And that's why this is so important to me is because, I do not want a student to leave my classroom as ... Feeling as if I didn't address something to the best of my ability. Now, do I understand that things happen, and there's things that I will never see and never know, correct. But I don't want them to actually feel that I purposely walked past the situation and didn't take a moment to at least address it for what it is.

Riley Hintzsche:

Sadly, that took me 10 years out of high school to truly understand that. And I actually feel bad about it because I held a grudge for so long about some of the things I felt, and it really became impactful for me. And that is the end goal of how can I make a student in my room feel as if they can live their authentic life and know that I support that 100%, even if I fail.

Alan Green:

Sabrina, how about you? Why is equity, inclusion and diversity important to you and your daily work?

Sabrina Stearns-Davis:

Okay. So first, if you don't know what my name is, is Sabrina, I'm a female. So for me, just having females in this particular field, in this educational field is important to make sure that other females know that we can do this and we have a love for this. And we just don't want to be put in a corner and just watch. We want to be a part of. If you think about history, really African-American female teachers did not exist. I think we started existing maybe in 2000, that's just based on what I've seen. Maybe I could go back to maybe 1980s, but that's about it.

Sabrina Stearns-Davis:

So for me just saying, "Hey, I I'm female, I'm African-American." I want students to see someone who looks like me, who's being that successful in what I do and expose them to anything and everything agricultural, because it's for everyone, it's not just for ... And excuse me when I say this, it isn't just for white men. It is for everybody. So for me, it's so important to ... For me to get my students out there for them to see, and for them to see how I work and how I'm sweating blood to make sure that they are noticed and in even for the program itself. Even when it comes to agriculture, because our students believe it's nothing but farming.

Sabrina Stearns-Davis:

Ag is not farming, is farming but it's a lot more than just farming it. So my goal is to make sure that students get the knowledge and they're able to take that knowledge and the leadership skills that I'm going to teach them. And they have them within them they just need to be pulled out in practice, in these real world situations. So they understand that you got to know the tool in order to be successful. That's my goal. That's my ultimate goal.

Alan Green:

I think you bring up a great point that it's important for students to realize that, one there's a spot for them in agricultural education, but also bigger than that, that there is a spot for them regardless of their socioeconomic status, regardless of their skin tone for them in agriculture. I think that's a really great point. When I think about inclusion diversity and equity in education, I always think about the ideal classroom. That picture perfect classroom where students are feeling valued and inclusive. In your opinion, how would you define an inclusive classroom and what makes a school or a classroom inclusive?

Sabrina Stearns-Davis:

Can I start?

Alan Green:

Yeah.

Riley Hintzsche:

By all means. I'm here for this.

Sabrina Stearns-Davis:

Let me start. We have this thing. So of course I'm different. Right? So we have this thing for family. That's just what it is, it's a community. It's a community of family members who all love this thing called agriculture. And you got some that just don't like it whatsoever. But you got to make sure that everybody feels like they're ... And sometimes family don't get along, all have each other's back. So when it comes to my classroom and how I do it is ... I'm like mother hen and y'all are the baby chicks. We're going to all make this thing work, we all can have each other's back. But it's that family aspect of that inclusion part of it.

Sabrina Stearns-Davis:

Because everybody, yes, we all have different opinions, we all have these different voices, but if we come together we can make something big happen. As long as you make your students feel like they belong, like you love them. I do love the mall. Yeah. I love them all, I get on them, I fuss at them, I give a positive feedback. That's a family, right? You fight and fuss, but we love on each other, and we make sure that everybody is surpassing the other people. So we got each other's back. So that whole community family aspect, that's my thing. That's what works in my classroom.

Riley Hintzsche:

You guys can see it, but she's got this huge smile on her face right now. Which is outstanding because I have to go back with what Sabrina says, is you have a family and you sometimes have to recognize where maybe sometimes you are playing favorites when you don't mean to. Or sometimes you have to understand that you are struggling with one particular student and you have to understand that maybe you're struggling with one situation.

Riley Hintzsche:

And I really look at it as if this wants to be inclusive, I have to start with myself, and I have to understand where I'm at. And then my biggest thing that I tell people all the time when I get asked the question of like, "How do I read that?" Or, "How do I do that?" Start at their level.

Sabrina Stearns-Davis:

Yes.

Riley Hintzsche:

And I'm going to give a really good example, is I have a student that struggles with anxiety. And even if I tried, it doesn't even have to be anything about race, or it doesn't have to be anything about sexual orientation. It can be the simplest thing of, I have one student in a classroom full of 26 that hates its people. Does not like to be around people and has crippling anxiety or when that student is called out. That is diversity right there in its own form. And when I say taking a look at inclusion diversity is, embracing each and every student. And more importantly, embracing the other students in your classroom as Sabrina said, to embrace the one student that is struggling.

Riley Hintzsche:

And creating that environment and creating that family that really understands that we are all different, we all have our unique talents. And at the end of the day, one of us is going to hold the gap that we are hoping the other one in our classroom can fill for them. And if it's not me, I need to make sure that I do my due diligence to teach my students that, you need to help this situation. And by the end of the day, my goal is that they understand that they recognize those situations every day in life. And they take that opportunity to fill that gap.

Alan Green:

Excellent.

Sabrina Stearns-Davis:

Preach brother. Preach. You said it, I love it. Yes.

Alan Green:

So Riley-

Riley Hintzsche:

I couldn't have done it without your family reference.

Alan Green:

Riley, so you mentioned it a little bit in your previous answer. But when we talk about ourselves as educators, you mentioned that it starts with knowing ourselves first or understanding ourselves first. Can you talk a little bit more about that, and maybe from a perspective of a teacher who doesn't see inclusion and diversity as a major issue in their classroom or a major focus for them. How would you explain to them about knowing yourself and why that's valuable to creating that inclusive classroom?

Riley Hintzsche:

So I guess my first comment with that is, really do understand where you are at as a human being, and what you can provide. If you have some secret that is ... I can't say secret. If you're trying to keep yourself from the world or you have something inside you that you're not ready to share, which is totally okay. If you have something that you're not ready to share, then you need to recognize that as yourself and who you are. For example, for my first two years of teaching, I didn't want anyone to know I was gay. I had no interest in the rest of the world knowing or for anything like that.

Riley Hintzsche:

And I didn't want to have that conversation with a single person. So anytime that it ever got brought up in any form in any way, I automatically shut it all out. And I dove down and I say ... And I stood in my safe place and I stayed there. And so I think we have to understand and realize, what are we acceptable with talking about and what are we not? And then where can we branch off to make things acceptable for ourselves? And we have to remember that with our students. So one of my favorite activities that I do usually once a year, it's called, I wish my teacher knew. And I give my students a piece of paper.

Riley Hintzsche:

And I say, "I want you to tell me one thing you wish that I knew as your teacher." And I leave the classroom, I let them write this down. They can put it on a piece of paper. They can put it on whatever they want and they drop it into a bucket. And I come back and I shake the bucket up and I then take those notes and I read them later on, when the kids are gone, when I can reflect. I've heard things as kids being sleeping sharing the bed as their same sibling, not having any food. They were assaulted as a young child. All these things that we wouldn't even think about. And the struggle with that is, is you so badly want to reach out and you want to help that student, but at the same point, you don't know what could cause them to dive down deeper and hide again.

Riley Hintzsche:

And so taking a moment to understand where you are and what your strengths ... Not your strengths, what you are okay with sharing, and what you're okay with being authentic about, is important to understand. And there are lines with all of that in education. I would be authentic about me being gay, but there may be something I'm not ready to share. And we all have those whether it's with teachers or whether it's with our students. I think it's important that we recognize where we are before we can try to help somebody else.

Alan Green:

How about you, Sabrina? What would you have to say of in regards of knowing yourself and knowing who you are in order to create an inclusive classroom learning environment?

Sabrina Stearns-Davis:

Okay. This is the point where if it was video, you'll see me taking off my glasses like I'm getting ready to tell you a whole bunch of stuff. But let me just say this, I am one proud, black, strong woman who I want my students to be and show their strength at all times. Because it is extremely hard for African-Americans to put themselves out there. My self esteem is very high. It's here, it's not here, it's here. And I have to always show up or put my best foot for all times so that these kids can pretty much find a way or find that strength as well. So when it comes to me, I'm very proud about who I am. And I'm very proud about how I grew up and the things that I have accomplished.

Sabrina Stearns-Davis:

And I want my students to know, it's okay to go about your achievements. I have a lot of students that just doesn't ... They don't want to talk about who they are and what they do or what they have accomplished, they're very shy. And I always say this to them, me as American ... African-American person, you have to go 10 times harder than everyone else. I don't care what anyone says, that is what I've seen that's what I have experienced. So, I tell my kids period.

Alan Green:

I was just going to say, it sounds like you two have had great success in gauging your classroom and understanding how to make students feel welcomed and inclusive. I'm just curious, what has worked for you and what are some things haven't worked for you in your quest in order to make your classrooms more inclusive and inviting for students?

Riley Hintzsche:

I like to try and-

Sabrina Stearns-Davis:

Well, I have a list of things. Riley can I go?

Riley Hintzsche:

By all means. I saw your face had a smile and grin a little bit. I'm like, "Oh, she's getting ready to fire, well."

Sabrina Stearns-Davis:

I got my notes. How about that?

Riley Hintzsche:

I like it.

Sabrina Stearns-Davis:

Okay. We can bounce off of each other.

Riley Hintzsche:

Perfect.

Sabrina Stearns-Davis:

I always let my kids have a voice in my classroom. That was one of the things coming along, always seen but not heard even in a classroom, I want my students to have a voice. They know how to have a decent voice. When they have their opinions, they always want to give them to me. In any means, I want them to be comfortable when they're speaking. I want them to speak their mind. There's a no judgment rule in my classroom. No judgment here. If I have students who are not able to speak, they're afraid of speaking in front of large groups, because everybody has to uplift everyone.

Sabrina Stearns-Davis:

Everybody is different and the only way that we can get around that is to respect each other and respect their differences. And also just accommodating everyone to make sure they feel comfortable. I mean, that's the best way. My classroom, when I first got to my classroom, it was blur, it was yucky. So when I transformed I call it our FFA four yay. When I transformed that, it just lit up the entire classroom. And having the students to have a say in what they want to learn, makes everything work for me and in my classroom. That's how I include them into everything that I do.

Riley Hintzsche:

I love it. Going off of what Sabrina had said, I'm very the same way. Is give your students a voice, but I try to preface or I try to, how do I be proactive versus reactive? The best I can. So for example, if I know a student is struggling, let's go have a conversation in the hall. I don't want to say this worked for me because that's not the ... That makes it sound like I staged it. But this really showed me that that works a few years ago. And I know Alan has heard this story before. A few years ago I've had a student that was in the process of having a sex change and was going from a female to male.

Riley Hintzsche:

And I was extremely excited that they could live their authentic self and that I could do that in their classroom or in my classroom. And I could be here to support them and be whatever resource they needed. And so I pulled that student in the hall and I said, "Hey, I just ... I want to talk to you about this." And I said, "I want you to tell me everything, so that way I know." And so this student shared with me like, "I'm in the process. My mom knows but my dad is really not part of the picture, but my dad is still in the picture. It's very confusing.

Riley Hintzsche:

And if you talk to my mom I'm going to use an alias name. I would like for you to call me Allie. But if you talk to or see if we could talk to dad call me Allie, if you talk to mom you can call me Henry." And so it was all these things in the fire at discussions of, okay, well this has to happen, and this has to happen. Well, one day we're in class and I said, "I was talking with other students." I said, "Allie, Henry." And then it happened, I said it. I said it, and I didn't even realize it and I felt like crap. And I felt really, really horrible. And I pulled that ... And I didn't even know it because another student told me that I did it. And I pulled that student out in the hall.

Riley Hintzsche:

And I said, "I need to make sure that I apologize to you. I need to make sure that we have this open conversation. I owe you the largest apology." And because I had taken the moment to be proactive and talk to the student about living their authentic self in my classroom, that particular student looked at me and said, "I don't care because I know it's confusing for you and I know you've tried. And I know that you've done everything you can, and it's confusing for other people too. And it's okay because I know that you care about me and not just who I ... Just not my names. And you actually care about what I want."

Riley Hintzsche:

And so when I say be proactive, is have those hard conversations people. Be okay with the fact that someone is different than you and be willing to open up. You don't have to share anything, but allow them to share. And maybe if you can share do so. I had a student yesterday tell me that she got ... She gets to meet her mom for the first time. And so I pulled her out in the hall. I said, "Hey, let's talk about this." I said, "How are you feeling?" She's like, "I'm excited." And I said, "Well, I want to share with you that I have an older adopted brother. My adopted brother has yet to meet ... Or has yet to meet his mom, but has got to talk to his mom.

Riley Hintzsche:

And so if you just needed to talk about it, I want you to know that that's something I have semi in common. And if you need to talk about it, I'm here." And so immediately by sharing something similar, maybe not a hundred percent but something similar, I opened that gate that they may understand that I can relate to them on some level. And so I think it's very important that you be proactive and have those conversations and be okay with the fact that somebody is different than you.

Alan Green:

I think those are both great experiences that you shared Riley. And I think it shows that, when we're talking about being inclusive with our students, it's not a check box. It's not a, "Oh yeah, I'm inclusive and diverse." It's important to continue learning and continue growing and to have those experiences. But then also when you do something wrong, to admit to it and learn from those situations. The next few questions that I have for both of you deal specifically more with students. I think sometimes it might be easy for us to say, "Yes, my classroom is a safe space."

Alan Green:

I remember that was a line that I used when I was teaching. But sometimes it's difficult for students who don't see that as a priority and to really be on board with it. How do you address students who aren't contributing to that inclusive learning environment who are maybe making those comments, who aren't accepting other people? How do you bring them on board or how do you address those specific issues?

Sabrina Stearns-Davis:

Well, for me, I do have a lot of students who ... And you have to understand the dynamics of our school, of my school. Students are to fill out an application and choose a pathway. And I've had many students to tell me they didn't want to be a part of my pathway, they just want to get into the school. And no they don't like my class and no they don't want to go outside, no they don't like anything. They don't want to be around the students. I don't have a class that has students who may have a lot of special needs issues, because it is a magnet school. But what I do have are students who do not want to participate, they don't find it important.

Sabrina Stearns-Davis:

And what I end up doing is, giving them choices and those choices are you take charge, period. What is it that you want? Once I gather that information in terms of what they want, it's just a private conversation I have with them and their parents, because parents are important in this decision-making if their child is going to be successful or not. So once we have this important private conversation change starts, and once a student understands what it is that I'm trying to teach them or what I want from them, then they open up a little bit more. They want to do the work. They want to do a project.

Sabrina Stearns-Davis:

They want to call me up on my personal phone and talk to me about what they've learned outside of school. So it's just having those conversations with the student and the parent in order to get that student on board. But I do have plenty of students that said that to me and they completed the pathway. It's just they need to see it. And I think exposure is a plus for these ... For those students who just don't feel agriculture is for them, or they just don't want to do any of the work. But I'm exposing them to those real life situations and giving them a chance to decide on how they want to learn or what is it they want to know more of, it works.

Sabrina Stearns-Davis:

Eventually it works. I don't spend my tire year of, "Oh my God, I hope this kid goes away." It's more of, "Oh my God, this child has gotten it now." And just give them positive feedback and just praising them for where they started and where they are now when it comes to not really wanting to be a part of.

Riley Hintzsche:

I like that. And I think a lot of it for me comes down to a few things. One, never underestimate the power of a friend and or somebody that somebody looks up to. And so I use friend based mentoring a lot, to provide students with that feedback and ways to encourage other students to change that approach. I have three students that are very uplifting that I have pulled aside and said, "Hey, this student is going to struggle with this, and I think that you're really good at reinforcing the fact that they can be better. And I want you to use that power whenever that student ... You see that students start to struggle."

Riley Hintzsche:

And all of a sudden you're just there like, "Oh my God, he's talking to me. He recognized something in me. Oh my God this is this..." And they really feel empowered with that. And all of a sudden that student struggles and boom, somebody jumps in and reinforces the struggle. And all of a sudden the rest of the class is doing it, which is very inspiring to me because it just took a couple minutes out of ... Or a couple of seconds out of my time to fix that problem. I'll be honest with you, I'm blunt and to the point and I always ... I can't say I always have been. But I'm to the point where I don't put up with stuff very much anymore, and so I call it out.

Riley Hintzsche:

And if I have to then that student and I go have a conversation. And I relate, I don't take that student out into the hall and show them a new one. Have I done that? Of course. We all have. We go out and we have the conversation and the first thing out of my mouth is, "I don't hate you, I don't think you're a bad person. There's nothing wrong with you, but there is something wrong with what we're just dealing with and we need to talk about it." And then we relate it back to something that they may have in their life. And I'm a very, very large people reader and I actually have a teacher Ag intern every year, that their first assignment is to be a CSI investigator basically.

Riley Hintzsche:

And they have to read the personality of one student in the room. They have to stock them through the hall. They have to do things and ... To understand the personality of that student, and that's the first thing I watch as these kids walk in every single day. What is their personality screaming to me? And then how can I use that personality to best mold that classroom to the best it is. And I think that's important is, you use that personality and what those students know and what those students' drive to succeed is. And you use that in a way that can really not only fix the problem, but build the relationship that you have with them.

Riley Hintzsche:

And so that way they understand that you are truly looking out for the best interests, while solving the problem that they created. I can't say problem is the right word, but solving the situation and getting them to understand that, you may be able to do that at home, but in real life it's not going to be okay.

Alan Green:

One thing that we really like to focus on for the NAAE Connects Podcast is, is providing our listeners with tangible steps that they can take away and implement into their classroom or their daily work. What would be maybe one or two tangible steps or actions that our listeners can take to make their classrooms more inclusive?

Riley Hintzsche:

That's a very good conversation and a very good thing that ... I'm just looking around my room right now. So I have a ledge of ... Behind my desk and it has a whole bunch of things on it that people have given me or things that we've gotten at national convention. I laugh now, but one of the things that is there is a gay pride flag, and it's not something that I put there, it's something that my students put there. And although that'll matriculate out and students will think that I put it there because it's sitting there, for four years, students are going to know that it was put there by another student. I have a little gargoyle thingy that another student gave me.

Riley Hintzsche:

Although it may not be my favorite relic that sits on there, my favorite thing that sits there, there's a story behind it that comes with that family that gave it to me. and that was years and years and years ago. And so I think the biggest thing is finding little things that make that environment inclusive. If a kid walks in and gives you something, don't take it home and put it in a box. Display it in your classroom and use it as a tool to say, "This is what someone gave me." I have an African-American student that wears her traditional African wear, is the best way that I can say it. She wears it to school every now and then, and I think it's awesome and she embraces it.

Riley Hintzsche:

And it's all did up to the nine and it's beautiful and we embrace it and we have fun with it. And I think that's important too, is you can laugh, you can joke, and you can have fun with everyone in your classroom and still be diverse. When you get to that point of understanding where you've understand their personality, and you've understood who that person is. And you understand that they respect you just as much as you respect them. It doesn't have to be a friendship, but it does have to be a working relationship. And so changing that environment of your classroom is a big thing for me and allowing that ... Allowing those traditional working relationships to expand and unfold into what they can be.

Riley Hintzsche:

And I think the other thing that you can do very easily is again, be proactive not reactive. Understand the situation, take time to get to know your kids. Don't put up red flags and allow them to tell the story of who they are and where they're from and use that story to best mold your teaching career. Am I an expert? No. Do I learn every day? Yes. And I think that that's what's important about teachers is, we are lifelong learners and it's important that we show that to our kids.

Sabrina Stearns-Davis:

I'm not a teacher, I'm a facilitator. I call myself a facilitator because, all I'm doing is just guiding kids to be successful. That's the ultimate goal. Is to make sure that they have all the tools that they need and I've done them as a community leader as someone that just wants to make sure that that person gets that scholarship or they have those A's and B's in class. Making sure I know their families they're important, especially everybody's going to be successful. Knowing their parents and knowing how their family dynamic works, and me knowing what's going to be best for that particular student in different situations or different activities that we do do.

Sabrina Stearns-Davis:

Knowing a kid's personal interests and making sure that you talk to them, it's like a said before being a family. When you're a family, you talk to each other, and you do joke around and you do have a great time while you're doing what you do. For me being that facilitator and making sure that they get to the finish line, that's the ultimate goal. To make sure that they get to that finish line, which has that diploma and getting accolades.

Alan Green:

Well, Riley and Sabrina, thank you again for joining us for this Podcast episode of Connect, for sharing your insights and your stories. Thank you both for the important work that you do to ensure that your classrooms and your programs are inclusive places for all students to feel successful and valued. Are there any last thoughts or ideas or action steps that you'd like to share before we wrap up this episode?

Sabrina Stearns-Davis:

No one is perfect. What we do is basically, let's see if this works and if this works, we're going to keep moving and using that. And when that stops working, I've got to call Riley, or I've got to call somebody, call Alan, "Hey, Alan, I need some more ideas because this is not working now." So we're not perfect, but if we all work together we can make things go the way we want them to go for all of our students.

Riley Hintzsche:

I love it, Sabrina. And I would say, be purposeful in your approach and it doesn't have to be full frontal, it doesn't have to happen overnight. Don't try to just fix it short-term, fix it longterm in the best approach that you possibly can and making your room and your classroom and everything that you have to be as authentic. Your kids do not have to know everything about you. Mine know a lot about me, that's my choice. You choose what you want them to know and you live that authentic life.

Riley Hintzsche:

But at the same point, be authentic, be real, be understanding. And I think if you really take a look at it, every situation is going to be different for you. And I say this because I've had a lot of those situations that I went in thinking, "Okay, we got this and things are going to be great." And then it quickly changes and I have to learn to adapt to that change. And that's another change that I have in my toolbox that I know how to handle a little bit more. And so I think that that's very inspiring too, because that tells you that we are continuing to be more authentic because you're continuing to learn more of how to be authentic. And that is just truly amazing for me.

Alan Green:

Well, thank you again Riley and Sabrina, we really appreciate the insight that you both have provided. Take care.

Riley Hintzsche:

Thank you very much.

Sabrina Stearns-Davis:

Thank you.

Alan Green:

Thank you for joining us for this episode of Connect. A Podcast by the National Association of Agricultural Educators. It's always hard to say goodbye, but we'll be back with more episodes to help you build even more connections to help you grow as a professional. If you like what you've heard, we'd love to have you subscribe, rate or give us a review on iTunes or whatever platform you use, so we can help connect more agricultural educators through our Podcast. Until next time.

Alan Green:

Welcome to Connect, a podcast by the National Association of Agricultural Educators. No matter how long you've been in the classroom, we as agricultural educators know the power that connections play in bettering ourselves as educators and strengthening our professional. Connect is a podcast by the National Association of Agricultural Educators, and works to educate listeners about NAAE resources, inform them of new and innovative practices and Connect current and future agricultural educators and supporters. I'm your host, Alan Green, we are excited that you're here. So let's get started.

 

Alan Green:

Hey there and welcome back to another episode of Connect, a podcast by the National Association of Agricultural Educators. We're excited to keep the conversation about CASE going in today's episode, if you're new here and you've never heard of it, CASE for the Curriculum for Agricultural Science Education, and it's a project managed by NAAE with the goal of implementing a national curriculum that's both rigorous and relevant for secondary agricultural education. If you're interested in learning more about CASE itself, we encourage you to check out the second episode of our podcast, the CASE on CASE where we interview two CASE master teachers and learn more about how it's changed both their professional and personal life. And we'll include a link to it in the show notes for this episode. One of the most important things to know about CASE is that it's not a box curriculum set, CASE isn't in the market of selling curriculum. Instead, it conducts high quality professional development, which up until this year has been mostly offered in person in institutes during the summer months across the country.

 

Alan Green:

So in the past in order for teachers to use CASE curriculum, they first must attend a CASE institute for a specific course. However, like most things, COVID-19 has significantly changed CASE programming and how it provides professional development to teachers, which is why we're excited to be chatting with to NAAE staff members. And more specifically two CASE team members, Jesse Lumpkins and Sara Cobb, to provide a few updates related to CASE programming and additional projects in the works as they continue to serve agricultural educators. Jessie and Sara, thank you so much for joining us today.

 

Jessie Lumpkins:

Thanks. Glad to be here.

 

Alan Green:

We are so excited to be talking with you two, I don't know if you know this, but you two are the first actual NAAE staff members that have been on the podcast. We've had teachers, NAAE board members, sponsors, outside experts, but never have had staff members. So I guess congratulations on that honor. Jesse and Sara, would you like to kick off the conversation and just talk a little bit about who you are and what your role with NAAE and CASE are?

 

Sara Cobb:

Sure. Thanks for having us on today, Alan. My name is Sara Cobb and I joined the CASE team in 2015, originally as the online learning coordinator and since then my role has evolved several times and I'm currently in the capacity as the certification and digital learning coordinator. And as a component of that I work with the development of our professional development program, and then also our student credentialing program.

 

Alan Green:

Wonderful.

 

Jessie Lumpkins:

I'm Jessie Lumpkins, I am from Nashville, Tennessee. And for about 10 years, I taught agriculture, I was in the classroom, I had a lot of diverse populations and different students and it was really fun to champion that. And I use CASE since at least 2015, I was able to go every summer and be a lead teacher, which was some of my favorite experiences every year. And in March, I was able to transition into being the program manager for CASE with NAAE which means on a daily basis I get to help teachers and connect them to the curriculum that they need for our new website that I know we're going to talk about. And provide also things like scholarships and grants to be able to make CASE and curriculum access and getting all the equipment just a little bit easier for our teachers. So I enjoy being on the frontlines of that and helping folks with the things they need and also managing our social media so we can have a bigger and better presence always online.

 

Alan Green:

And I'm really excited to be here. Again, I'm the host of the podcast, Alan Green, I'm excited to be here as a former teacher who used CASE and got to go to a CASE institute and continue those conversations about how CASE is really adapting their programming to meet agricultural educators across the country, especially this year and all the challenges that COVID-19 has brought. So I mentioned earlier that COVID-19 has been like any other and obviously CASE is in the business of providing in person professional development. That's where the majority of the PD hours come from in the past. The first question that I have for you two is, obviously that COVID-19 has caused a lot of issues and a lot of challenges, how has CASE responded to COVID-19 and what has really changed maybe in the last six months or so as a result of it?

 

Jessie Lumpkins:

So we know that and you did a great job of explaining that and so did Carol and Karen in the last podcast. CASE is not just curriculum that we send to folks, it's really the professional development that prepares you to develop this year long or to utilize and truly understand so that we can better deliver it to students, the curriculum. So, that in person training is vital. And Alan, you've been to one and you know how you can probably put yourself in the position of seeing that curriculum and having never been trained that it would have been pretty difficult. So we know that we have to adapt to that and I'm sure we'll chat about some of the things that the next year is going to look like. So I was impressed when I came on the team in March and noticed very quickly that Carl Arcuri, now our assistant director, realized the need for some immediate PD, that it was going to take some time to develop a lot of the things that we're going to need in 2021 and beyond.

 

Jessie Lumpkins:

But I love being able to collaborate with him on CASE ASA, which is our animal science course, the very first immersive PD that we were able to provide. So it's still ongoing right now and what immersive really means is that although the PD is occurring simultaneously, you know our teachers are getting trained a week or two, three weeks or so, a month before they're going to provide that. So although it's not in person traditionally, that eight to five for about two weeks that we traditionally know, teachers are still being able to utilize the ASA curriculum as they're being trained for it this semester. The coolest thing to me about that is our ability to since we are saving money on not having any in person items, lodging or meals, things like that. And of course, we miss that, we can save that money and provide a different perk to these teachers. And that's sending them a lot of different materials that they need for those courses.

 

Jessie Lumpkins:

So the things that if you are CASE certified and you're aware of that, you get materials from Vernier and Lab-Aids, we were able to send those teachers not only the materials that they need to conduct those labs and learn how to do the APPs at first, but also equipment and supplies that they can then use for their students. And so understanding that we had planned a final in person event, we are really looking forward to that, probably not going to happen at this point. So we know that we will have some more money that we're able to spend on those teachers. And although we are lacking that in person community, they have a two cohorts, one kind of East Coast and then a West Coast, so that they are collaborating a little bit in real time.

 

Jessie Lumpkins:

They meet on Saturday, it's to be able to go through their curriculum, we have some great lead teachers that are doing this for the first time virtually and so they're also learning a lot so that in 2021, when we possibly have to do a lot more PD online and not face to face, that we will know better how teachers can truly learn best on a type of Zoom PD, because I think at this point we've been on Zoom long enough to see that although we are talking with our friends, they're the same people when we are in person that it does provide some challenges. So I've really been excited to see what that ASA group is doing and I'll be very interested to see too at the end, how that experience was different from in person and what we can learn from that for the future.

 

Sara Cobb:

I think one of the most interesting and positive things of the COVID impact on CASE has been how it has pushed our staff to be innovative and really think outside of our traditional program offerings. And in March, when everything started to shut down, we were already shifting our in person elite elevation conference virtual and so we had started prior to that when we saw that the shutdown was happening, shifting to how are we going to make a connection and build a relationship with our lead teachers and our affiliate professors who are attending elite elevation through a screen. And because typically, that conference is something where we spend two to three days together and we really build our CASE family and our CASE relationships, which is a huge part of what makes CASE so successful. So to be able to shift to a digital world and maintain that connection was really important to us.

 

Sara Cobb:

And just going through that process really helped us to open our eyes into, "Okay, so then how does this need to expand into our more traditional professional development offerings?" And so we started with briefcases, which are our one day in person training typically and shifted that to a virtual training and that really was a challenging project for our staff to be able to take a four hour in person training and turn it into a transformative virtual training. And so we really had to expand our minds on the tech, expand our minds on what does good digital pedagogy look like? And that went through several iterations. And after we got that figured out, that's when we started to transition into, "Okay, now, how do we tackle CASE institutes?" And that's where Carl and Jesse put together this ASA immersive plan, which we're running this fall that seems to be doing really well and really successful. We are currently working on putting together a schedule for in person professional development for next summer.

 

Sara Cobb:

However, we're also in the back of our minds, we're thinking, "Okay, what's the contingency plan?" We don't know what anything is going to look like. So, just knowing that we want to continue to be innovative and continue to push those boundaries and also, it's good that we've branched out into this virtual world because we know that there is a group of Ag teachers who can't commit to attending in person. They have so many other things going on, but they might be interested in CASE, might want to get certified, but the schedule that we offer... Our traditional schedule doesn't work for them. So we're looking at this as these are changes that will be implemented for the long term, they're not changes that we're looking to just do through the pandemic. So we're trying to have that end goal in mind of what's our long term plan? How do we transition this into something that is still transformative PD, but helps us grow the profession as well.

 

Alan Green:

Which I was just going to say, I commend the entire CASE team, because they think to move from such a model that... CASE has provided those in person professional development experiences for several years to be able to have something like this come up and to be able to pivot in such a phenomenal way and reach teachers where they are, I think is just fantastic. I didn't start with NAAE until the beginning of August, and so I was experiencing more of it from a teacher perspective. And Sara, like you said, I think that this will be a really great opportunity moving into 2021, about how CASE changes its programming a little bit because the CASE institutes they're a big time commitment. That was something when I went to mine, it was the summer that my wife and I were getting married, we had a lot on our plate, it was most definitely worth it. I absolutely loved the experience. But I think it's such a great opportunity to meet teachers where they are and to fit into their schedule.

 

Alan Green:

Maybe it's a little bit premature to ask this question, but what is 2021 looking like, as far as the CASE institutes? Sara, you mentioned that you're looking at a schedule for in person, but is there plans to offer more of the immersive professional development experiences in other courses as well?

 

Sara Cobb:

Yeah, so we are in the process right now of collecting our host applications, what we typically do each fall. And so we will announce our in person CASE institute and briefcase offerings for summer 2021, right around the same time as National FFA Convention, just like we do every year. However, that's kind of our, everything's going to be fine.

Alan Green:

Wishful thinking.

 

Sara Cobb:

That's where we want to be. In a perfect world, we want to be able to say that if you want to become Food Science and Safety certified next summer, that we're going to have institutes for you to attend in person. But along with that, we are also scheduling some... Where we anticipate scheduling some virtual or immersive options as well, because we want those options to be a part of our programming forever, not just something that we're doing this past fall. So one thing that we're trying to figure out as we go through all of that is, so right now we have ASA prepared to do that with, we have the business course agricultural business foundations has a virtual offering as well. So our big project for this winter is really taking the rest of our foundations courses, which would be plant science, AFNR, Ag, food and natural resources, APT, Ag power and tech, and then natural resources, NRE and moving them into some type of virtual option.

 

Sara Cobb:

Because while we're also planning for, this is the best scenario and that's what we want to happen being in person, we're also planning for what's the worst scenario? And so for us, the worst scenario would be last summer to repeat itself, where in person was not an option. And so we're trying to come up with a plan for that. We really would like to be able to say we're still offering professional development for every single course. And so that's our goal, is to still be able to offer professional development for every single course to get teachers certified and prepared to be effective in the classroom with that course material. So we'll see how that goes. We're still in the early planning stages of all of that,

 

Alan Green:

Into like... That's a difficult decision, it's a difficult situation to navigate. It's not, "Oh, next week we'll crank something else." So, one question that I was going to ask, we're in a world where the presence of technology, especially in the classroom is growing every single day, whether teachers are in person and using technology to supplement or to facilitate their learning or virtually, what is CASE doing to help teachers implement technology into their classrooms and into their curriculum?

 

Sara Cobb:

Yeah. So we are... I don't know if you've heard or not about the Thrive Conference. And so the Thrive Conference is a new conference that CASE is offering this year. And we've actually internally discussed doing an educational technology based conference for several years. But it just hadn't... The timing wasn't right in all the conversations that we had. And with COVID, the timing is now and so we spent some time this past spring and summer, really narrowing down if we were to do an ed tech conference, what would we want to focus on. And so we've decided that we are going to go ahead and we're going to offer Thrive and we currently have a call out for presenters because we have seen through our contacts, friends that we know, social media, just across the Ag community, there's so many teachers who are doing really innovative, exciting, creative solutions to how to instruct CTE curriculum in a virtual classroom.

 

Sara Cobb:

And we want to highlight that, we want to be able to share those tips and techniques and resources with teachers across the country. So, Thrive is not going to be limited to CASE teachers, whether you're a CASE teacher, whether you're CASE certified or not, you're welcome to submit a workshop proposal for us. And you're also welcome to attend, we just really want it to be a think tank of all things Ag ed and how we can use educational technology to grow our students.

 

Jessie Lumpkins:

And really adapt to what the rest of this semester, the spring semester. And really because I think... And teachers will be able to just from the feedback we get from teachers, it seems like even when hybrid is over, virtual might be over and we're all in person. I think this shows that education has been changed forever and the landscape is going to be completely different even when things go back to some type of normal. And so CASE wants to adapt to that too. So for those who might have ever had CASE online, which we know is a supplement to CASE curriculum, because we do have a new website and some folks might consider that to be CASE online as well. But CASE online previously, you were able to purchase flipped videos and those are available now for free on YouTube. So there're some great playlists on YouTube for some of those, especially if maybe you're not able to see your students in person or when you provide some of that instruction, if they're absent or they weren't able to get on Zoom, that might help as well.

 

Jessie Lumpkins:

We have teachers who are sending some recorded labs, because obviously, if you have students at home and it's very difficult to send a lot of lab materials. I have seen some teachers that have worked together to put boxes and I think that's amazing. But we just hope to be able to also cultivate some of the great things that teachers are doing and share those on things like our YouTube and our Facebook as well.

 

Alan Green:

And I was going to say to that, last spring when I was teaching intro to AFNR using CASE, we had to switch to a virtual format. The online flip videos were so valuable in my classroom because it was one last thing number one that I had to worry about, but two, it was making sure that students were engaging with material and also getting to watch that video and hearing that voice I think is extremely valuable as well. Jessie, you mentioned it a little bit, but I'm going to lead into our next question. CASE has an updated website, it is beautiful, tell me more about it. Tell me more about what it means for CASE certified teachers and someone who might be visiting the website.

 

Jessie Lumpkins:

Yeah, so our website, we're really excited about it. It was in the works before I was able to come on the team, but it's something that I've been able to help manage. And I've really enjoyed being able to... Not to say that any old version of any site is bad, but when you reevaluate things like a website you are able to see maybe gaps in communication. So overall, one thing that my goal and our team's goal is to just provide more of a learning page for anything that people need when it comes to CASE, so that you know if it's something like, you have a student teacher now and they need to have curriculum access or you're planning for next year and even though the institute schedule isn't out, you would like to know in general how much does one of the courses cost to be certified and et cetera. So, in addition to just having more of a FAQ section, so that it's a comprehensive area, two of the biggest things are now online access to curriculum and the CASE store.

 

Jessie Lumpkins:

So previously, for those people who may not have ever been certified or heard or had a friend that's certified, now back in the day, my very first certification in I think 2015, you would get a CD with a curriculum and you'd load it onto your laptop, computer, whatever and it would have a little icon, you'd click on that and then it would take you to an HTML navigated version of the curriculum. A few years later, we were able to do download codes, so you would put a download code and you'd get your curriculum. And there are plenty of teachers we know that still utilize those. And that's great, because for those who don't know, once you're CASE certified, regardless of which school you moved to, you could move from Maine to Hawaii and whatever school that you went to or left and then went to, that intellectual property moves with you. So, that's fine.

 

Jessie Lumpkins:

However, most CASE teachers realize that there's a rotation of when we update and revise our curriculum, because of course, we always want to be relevant with the industry making sure that we're preparing our students for the careers that they're actually going to face. So it's important for us to keep that curriculum updated. Now, one of the best things about having our curriculum located online now, where you don't have to download it to your local device, is that if we found something that needed to be changed in the curriculum tomorrow, maybe a broken link that was exterior to CASE or we just wanted to update something regarding equipment or materials, that we'd be able to push that out and anybody who logged in after that would be able to see it.

 

Jessie Lumpkins:

So going back in case there are folks who haven't been able to access this yet, first of all, tell you if you have ever been CASE certified and or you've ever paid NAAE dues, which we know that you don't have to be an NAAE member to become CASE certified, but we have many, many folks who cross over both of those areas, that you probably already have an account. But we do have a lot of folks, since we launched this just back in July, that you may not have utilized your account before, so you wouldn't know. So, I would suggest and I just put this out there every time I talk with folks, that if you're logging in for the first time, try to use some email addresses that you might have used in the past, especially those... If you were a student, NAAE member, or if you had pre service certification, you definitely already have an account. It could be under the school email that you had, your university or college email.

 

Jessie Lumpkins:

Now, of course, there could be if you move schools an email account connected to yours that is not accessible anymore and that's completely fine, folks can email me and my information is on our website, caseforlearning.org, under about and contact. And I can just manually change that for folks. And I know that sounds a little bit like boring logistics, but I do think that might help anybody who might be struggling because that's just the growing pains that we faced in the first few months of implementation. And if there's a way that we can get folks access just a little bit quicker, then I'd love to do that as well. Also, if you ever reset your password, so I do think this is important for everybody, whatever email that you use as your username on caseforlearning.org, is the email that when we want to contact you, we're going to use. So we don't mind if it's your school email or personal, whatever works for you is fine. Just keep in mind that if you ever change that, that's your contact information for us.

 

Jessie Lumpkins:

So if you ever need to do that and reset a password and you don't get that email, sometimes they go to spam, that's just one thing I like to remind folks. Now, once you are finally logged in to my CASE, which is what we call that area once you have all your personal CASE information, we also call that the dashboard, you're going to be able to access the certificate that you may need for PD related to whenever you took that course. So for some reason you have to go back maybe your license is getting renewed and you need to show that you had many, many upwards of 50, 60, 70 when it comes to these amazing institutes. You need to be able to show that, your certificate is on your dashboard. But of course, the link to your curriculum accesses as well. So when you get to that area, you'll see that we're able to... This is something just as a logistics person really interesting and exciting to me. For each specific course there's a little area on your dashboard related just to that course.

 

Jessie Lumpkins:

So, CASE teachers know and for those who may not, CASE curriculum is copywritten. Once you have it, of course it's your property, but folks would need to be able to become certified to be able to have that information. So we face the struggle of wanting to be able to update all of our folks on the big things and the small things, but we of course have to restrict it to those groups. So if you haven't noticed and you go on your dashboard, if there's something great just related to like right now on NRE, there was a great TED Talk related to wildfires. And Molly Bloom, who's on our staff in his curriculum, noticed that it would relate really well to lesson 7.2, related to timber in NRE. So we were able to put a link to that on the dashboard and we hope to just be able to find more of those little resources to be able to connect teachers to that. When you actually click on the link to take you to the curriculum, you'll also see that there are many different ways to navigate that. So we talked about it being online.

 

Jessie Lumpkins:

The one challenge that that could present to some teachers if you have connectivity issues or issues related to Wi-Fi. And we know that a lot of students have this issue as well. If there is a concern related to accessing your curriculum online, once you get into that, you're going to see what we've been calling it on the left hand navigation panel in your curriculum, there are also ways to download the entire bundle, which you could do and then it goes back to looking like what the curriculum traditionally looked like. You can also download the entire student workbook for any course. I think there's one that might be ARD, that just isn't a workbook related to the course, but those are all in PDF, it's all one big PDF. So if you're in person or you want to provide PDFs for your students virtually, that is already there as well. Something to keep in mind about those two options is, once you've downloaded them, they're static. So those updates we talked about a few minutes ago, if we ever pushed those out, you would have to download those things again to see if that updated version.

 

Jessie Lumpkins:

But as you navigate it, you'll see that it is very cleanly put together. It's under what we call accordion, so it [inaudible 00:26:56] really well and you can access things really quickly. And we also know teachers need Word doc versions of things. So in case you haven't heard, there are two ways that you can do the actual editable version. I know that when I was in the classroom, I needed to be able to edit some versions and I know now of course a lot of teachers want to be able to put them on different learning management systems. So, for anybody who is ever going to access this and wants to be able to navigate that and you haven't found it yet, if you go to the unit that you're looking at and then you click on lesson, when that pops up, there are a bunch of accordion tabs, as we call them. And when you click on instructional resources, you'll be led to the Word document versions if you need to access that.

 

Jessie Lumpkins:

And for AFNR, now we're recording this in late September. For AFNR we do have them all now converted to Google. John Bergen was able to join the team to do that. Yes, it's great. So we're able to once a week, anybody who was requested for that link, now that link is only available to folks who are logged in and have AFNR certifications. We're able to share that entire Google folder. And that's not just the APPs converted to Google so that folks can put it into Google Classroom, but it's also all of the checks for understanding as Google forums so that they can be actual assessments. Yeah. So, in the future, we definitely want to adapt that to other courses, we know that that's been a request too.

 

Jessie Lumpkins:

But as far as curriculum access, if there is something that you need, it's all still there, it's just been a possibly migrated a little bit and it just has a facelift, but our hope for providing this online is that you don't have to worry anymore about every summer when your computer gets re-imaged. Or if for some reason you're at home or at school or vice versa and the device that you had it downloaded to isn't there. Essentially, as long as you know your username and your password, you're going to be able to log in from any browser anywhere, any computer and be able to have access to that.

 

Alan Green:

Awesome. Well, I think that's just another great example of how CASE is meeting teachers where they are and continuing to provide them with the resources in the forms that they need so that teachers can spend less time worrying about those types of things and more time on their students. Jessie, you mentioned a little bit about the CASE store. Will you talk a little bit about what that is and the value of that to Ag teachers?

 

Jessie Lumpkins:

For sure. So, I'm thinking back to my early teaching experiences and I always loved debriefing and chatting, not just about the APPs and the curriculum, but also, I know that when I got certified and anytime I take on something big like getting CASE certified, because it's a big deal. You start to have all these other questions, not just about the curriculum, but how am I going to do this? How am I going to organize everything? How will I buy everything? So we understand that when we're introducing 180 days worth of curriculum to teachers that there is going to be a large list of materials and equipment and that that could possibly be overwhelming. So What we used to call them. And so if you're an OG CASE person, you know this, we used to call them purchasing manuals. And you'd go to our old website and download these Excel files that would say, "If you're ASP certified, here's everything you need from Vernier, here's everything you need from Lab-Aids."

 

Jessie Lumpkins:

Now, that's still available, but we think that it's actually in a more easy to use format that we're going to be able to update continually like we talked about with curriculum. And that's what we're calling the CASE store. So it's important to note that we don't actually have any physical inventory that we keep, we're not doing any actual shipping or anything, but we do have the CASE store, essentially as a liaison between the teacher and the vendors that they're going to need. It's set up in a way that will automatically update prices from those vendors. What we notice and the curriculum team shared this with me, every year, it seemed like things like possibly microscopes, they'd go up by maybe $1. So every year we'd have to change that list and you could be possibly operating from an outdated list. So connecting directly to the vendors on our website means that when you're looking at a price list, you're looking at what the price is today and you don't have to worry about that. It also has every detail about that item that you can imagine.

 

Jessie Lumpkins:

I know I worked for some very particular and detailed bookkeepers and you know from time to time that you need very specific information. So you're able to get that. But not only does it provided that, just so you know the items and you can find what you need, it also suggests the quantity that you need. Now keep in mind, we operate assuming that there's a 20 person class, so if you have less or more, that quantity recommended, obviously may need to be amended for yourself and you can make that determination. That's just for your help. But once you're on the website, if you haven't gotten to that part before in our CASE store, for instance, I'm looking right now at what I would need for the textbook vendor ATP. So in addition to the quantity that we recommend for each item, for each vendor, for each course, every page is set up so that when you input the quantity that you need, it populates the total cost, the running total.

 

Jessie Lumpkins:

So for somebody like me who's not great at math, but obviously, I needed to be able to do this, I would have loved to be able. It's essentially like a great spreadsheet that totals that for you. Now, one thing that you may need to be aware of is, as you click on the store and you're accessing different courses, we know that there are vendors who specifically will send you exactly what you need, like a specific microscope. But there are also tabs that lists things like local materials. For instance, I know that the food science and safety course requires a lot of consumable materials that obviously you just can't really buy, you would need to maybe just go to your local grocery store. Now, even though there's no way to buy that on our site and place that order on our site, there is still that list and it does have what you need, the recommended amount and the quantity needed.

 

Jessie Lumpkins:

And instead of hitting submit that order, you can hit the button that says print product listing, so you have a comprehensive list of everything you need, not only the quantity that we recommended, but the quantity that you suggested that you needed. So, essentially, the visit to our store should reduce complications when it comes to materials and equipment and make it easy for you to be able to place that order or if you have somebody else that does purchasing for you. I know sometimes there's CTE secretaries or folks that can do that. As long as they set up themselves with an account, which they don't have to be certified, they can go in and place those orders as well. And the last benefit of doing it that way other than obviously, having a lot of updated information regarding prices and whatnot, is that many of our vendors supply CASE with or CASE teachers with discounts.

 

Jessie Lumpkins:

And to be able to take advantage of those discounts, you have to go through us just so that those vendors know and we know that you are CASE certified. And so if you've been placing any orders just on your own, you at least might want to check out our store to see and be able to take advantage of some of those discounts.

 

Alan Green:

That all sounds fantastic. And I think the spreadsheet where it totals your amount as you're going I think is just wonderful, I think especially for a teacher to who maybe is working within a certain budget or they receive some type of grant and they're trying to stay at a certain amount. I think that that's such a great addition to that website as well. So, Jessie, thanks for sharing that.

 

Jessie Lumpkins:

Exactly.

 

Alan Green:

So, we're in a world right now where we're teachers across the school, not just in agricultural education, are I really trying to figure out how they're going to take their curriculum and adapt it to an online format or maybe they're in person and they're trying to figure out how they're going to do certain labs or certain activities while keeping social distancing in mind. What would you say to maybe a CASE certified teacher who's in the middle of that? Maybe they're completely online trying to figure out how to adapt their curriculum or their in person with those social distancing requirements. What would you recommend for them and how would you guide them through that process?

 

Jessie Lumpkins:

So, a few things come to mind and I'm sure Sara, because she has different strikes, she sees things from different ways. And so that's what makes working on a team so fun. One thing that keeps coming to mind when I see questions pop up. So the first thing I would suggest is, if you're CASE certified and you are active on Facebook or you'd like to be, there's a CASE teacher meetup group. Now, it does require that you're certified just in case we share things that are pretty specific to an APP, we obviously can't put that out to everybody. But I see a lot of teachers asking great questions about how to adapt certain APPs to online learning. And as much as I love AFNR and the folks on the team love the things that we are certified in and obviously, some of the team wrote everything. Once you're in the classroom and you're the one doing that adaptation, those teachers, you all are becoming the experts and you're really going to be able to inform the team and CASE staff on how to move forward with that.

 

Jessie Lumpkins:

So, I would definitely say check out that teacher meetup group and see if what you're wondering has been posted already, especially because we see that folks start school in waves. So there could be somebody that's gone to that APP and adapted already, because they possibly started school three weeks before you and you might be able to collaborate on that. When it comes to those specific APPs, there could be discussions on each one of those depending on the course. And that's where I think those can be facilitated. But overall, something that was said to me when I was being a lead teacher really stuck with me and Sara, might have thoughts on this too when she was getting certified and implementing CASE. But I remember lead teaching in Minnesota, so shout out to NAMI, Minnesota friends from that year in 2017, loved it, lived in a dairy firm for a week and a half. It was amazing and we had Cow TV, so we were able to see these amazing calves be... It was very distracting and we're able to overlook.

 

Jessie Lumpkins:

So if you've been there of the new sweetened dairy, you can see basically the entire operation from this classroom upstairs. And so I had to sometimes put up posters just so we wouldn't be watching all these amazing cows be born throughout the day. But I remember in Minnesota, there was a question specifically about some type of data that was being collected. And as a lead teacher and especially somebody when it comes to numbers, I always would feel like I'd mess up. So I got really in depth on why that piece of data might have been wrong and what we can do in the future if it's wrong again. And my CASE mentor at the time that came to evaluate and just make sure I was okay, it was Mike Retallick. It's probably Dr. Retallick. Right, Sara?

 

Sara Cobb:

Yeah, Dr. Retallick.

 

Jessie Lumpkins:

So, Dr. Retallick gave me great feedback that stuck with me since then. And he said, "I know that you want to make this good for the teachers and I promise this translates to teachers relating to students." But what he said was, "That data at every school that all these teachers are about to go back to could end up being incorrect for any number of reasons. Your equipment might not be calibrated properly, you just could have used the equipment incorrectly or the students might. Whatever the case may be, you might not have the correct materials and you have to make do. But remember that it's more about the process." So even if you end up having data that doesn't come out correctly, which I think any teacher listening CASE or not, you've probably done an experiment or lab before and it didn't come out the way you wanted. But that is also an opportunity to talk about the process again.

 

Jessie Lumpkins:

So if you were going to test the pH of a bunch of different soils and they were all supposed to come out perfectly and for some reason it didn't, even that discussion is valuable to students or teachers or whoever's learning from that, because we'll never be able to prepare our students for every time they need to collect or analyze data. So we can't anticipate every single thing that goes wrong, what we can discuss is those things that are different and why they were different and how next time to make it more consistent. So having said all that, I think that... I wonder if there are teachers who think maybe there's CASE police that's going to come get them or that something would go wrong or that they have to adapt that lesson and they're worried that they couldn't do it with the exact fidelity that they learned it with.

Jessie Lumpkins:

 

But if you're not able to provide that data to students or the way that they collect it, because your virtual isn't exactly the same, we know and we think and we see that there are teachers who are doing that data collection on their own and they're sharing that data with students. And then you can get back to the actual discussion, which is what was that objective? What were you collecting the data for? What are you ultimately wanting to learn from that data? And I think that with some of those in person wet labs, APPs, I can imagine and I'm not in the classroom anymore, how daunting it would be to try to get students to go through that, when if we remember that it's process over the product, our teachers are amazing. And when they keep that in mind, I know that they're going to be able to provide that information to students, so they can still have that experience.

 

Alan Green:

I think that's such a great point too. And I think some of the best lesson plans that we have as teachers are the ones that are unplanned or when they don't go the right way. So I think that's absolutely wonderful to focus more on the process, versus the actual product in getting those right numbers. Anything else, I guess for CASE certified teachers as they're implementing the curriculum? Anything else that they should be keeping in mind or advice you would give them about implementing them either online or in person with social distancing standards?

 

Sara Cobb:

Yeah. So I would just encourage them to keep the why at the forefront. Why are they having their students complete that APP? Or even if it's not a CASE course and it's a lesson in one of their shop classes or an Ag leadership course or something else that they teach that isn't CASE related. Always go back to that why, the struggle with technology and education is a lot of times you can get down a rabbit trail of chasing the technology and then losing the why of what you're teaching to begin with. And it's difficult to train your students to use technology and to have the technology be a mechanism of facilitating content and not being the content itself. So for example, we know a lot of schools right now are transitioning into learning management systems like Google Classroom or Schoology or Canvas or whatever it is being used at that location. And you want your students to be able to focus on the content that you're trying to share across the platform, not on how to use the platform.

 

Sara Cobb:

So, as you look at adapting content and adapting the way that you teach, whether you're full remote, whether you're in a hybrid situation or you're in person but your paperless now to help with contacts, so you have to do everything through a computer. Just constantly going back to that why. Do I really need to use six different software platforms for this one week project or can I just use one or two and still get that same point across? And that's one of the things that we really hope to help teachers with during the Thrive Conference, is how do you select the right tools to teach the concepts that you need to teach? And how do you maintain the modality that you like to teach it? So that's another struggle with CASE curriculum, is in the digital world. CASE's inquiry based and project based. And so how does that translate digitally? And so we're working internally right now on translating or transferring a lot of our curriculum, we're going to start with AFNR and ASP into a virtual mode for teachers so that those modifications will have already been made.

 

Sara Cobb:

So we're trying to... We're wearing our teacher hat and trying to identify what is the best possible modification for the APPs and those courses that allows a student to focus on the content and not the technology that's being used to teach it. And so if we keep going back to the why and keep that at our forefront, that's really going to help to be able to maintain that inquiry model and maintain that project model and not fall back into the rote memorization give and take model of education that CASE really tries to push teachers beyond.

 

Jessie Lumpkins:

That basically drills down to the process over the product, because there will be an APP that somebody comes upon and maybe the institute that you went to. In that moment, you may be thinking, "I don't know a way to adapt this." But if you go back to, "Well, what's the objective?" You may have a more simple way of doing that virtually. Or if everything goes bust and all you needed to do is discuss, "Well, what were we getting at?" If you remember the why, you'll always be able to adapt. I think that's well said.

 

Alan Green:

Awesome. Well, one last question before we wrap up this conversation for anyone who's listening, how can they stay up to date on current CASE programming and current CASE events?

 

Jessie Lumpkins:

So we have several different avenues that you can utilize to stay up to date. Of course, always bookmark caseforlearning.org, because anything important like, Sara discussing the Thrive Conference, we have a link for that already. Some of the overviews and the highlights, we have the call for presenters for that and the application. And so of course, when we have our 2021 PD go live and we can start to market that and also have registration that you'll be able to see that on the site. But I would also encourage you if you're active on Facebook to take advantage of liking both our main page that we like to push updates out on and also that CASE teacher meetup group. And one last thing I'd like to throw out there is if you have ever received emails for from NAAE or CASE before, when we send those emails, again, that is the email that you have on file on your my CASE profile. Whatever email that is, is what we'd like to send out our large HTML email blasts on, our very important things. Our scholarships, when institutes come open and things like that.

 

Jessie Lumpkins:

We have noticed that there might be some folks who either accidentally or because it might have just been attached to a different set of emails, you could have unsubscribed or suppressed the email. And so we're not able to send any more of those updates. So you might just want to check on anything that you've unsubscribed from and see if they're being blocked or being sent to spam. If you don't ever receive HTML emails anymore and you think you should be, you can always send me an email and I'll get you back on that list. But our website, our Facebook and our email distribution list are the three best ways to stay up to date.

 

Alan Green:

Awesome. Well, thank you so much again, Sara and Jessie for joining us today and for providing such great updates on current CASE programming. I'm sure that things will continue to change as we navigate these uncertain times together and I think CASE continues to deliver to teachers and provide the resources and information that they need. Thank you again.

 

Jessie Lumpkins:

Thanks so much. We're here to help teachers, so let us know what you need.

 

Sara Cobb:

Thanks for having us, it was great to chat today.

 

Alan Green:

Thank you for joining us for this episode of Connect, a podcast by the National Association of Agricultural Educators. It's always hard to say goodbye, but we'll be back with more episodes to help you build even more connections to help you grow as a professional. If you like what you've heard, we'd love to have you subscribe, rate or give us a review on iTunes or whatever platform you use, so we can help connect more agricultural educators to our podcast. Until next time.

Alan Green:

Welcome to Connect, a podcast by the National Association of Agriculture Educators. No matter how long you've been in the classroom we as agriculture educators know the power that connections play in bettering ourselves as educators and strengthening our profession. Connect is a podcast by the National Association of Agricultural Educators and works to educate listeners about NAAE resources, inform them of new and innovative practices, and connect current and future agricultural educators and supporters. I'm you host, Alan Green, we are excited that you are here so let's get started.

 

Alan Green:

Hi there and welcome back to Connect, a podcast by the National Association of Agricultural Educators. On today's episode Parker Bane, the current NAAE president and guest cohost, and I are continuing our conversation about Ag teacher nutrition, health, and wellness.

 

Parker Bane:

If you're new here we were joined by two agricultural educators, Amanda and Melvin, during our last episode where they shared their stories about their health journeys along with tips and tricks that any listener can implement in their own lives to maintain their energy throughout the day and be the best for themselves, their students, and their families.

 

Alan Green:

And if you're interested in listening to our first episode, you can listen to it on iTunes, Spotify, or Google Play, or by visiting our website at www.NAAE.org/podcast.

 

Parker Bane:

Before we welcome our guest for today's episode, we again want to reiterate that this podcast episode is for educational and entertainment purposes only. Any serious lifestyle changes should be made only in consultation with your physician.

 

Alan Green:

On today's episode we're excited to keep the conversation about Ag teacher nutrition, health, and wellness going. We're joined today by Ms. Ginny Reddick, who is a nutrition and wellness coach for individuals, groups, and organizations. We are so excited for everything that Ginny has to share with us, so let's jump right in.

 

Alan Green:

Ginny, thank you so much for joining us today on the Connect podcast.

 

Ginny Reddick:

Thank you for having me.

 

Alan Green:

Now Ginny, will you just start off and share with our listeners more about your role in nutrition and wellness? What kind of work do you do and what services do you provide for different individuals, businesses or organizations?

 

Ginny Reddick:

Yeah, I'd love to. So just to kind of set the picture of who I am and what I do. My mission as a nutrition wellness coach is to empower people to have their best energy so that they can truly be the best version of themselves, so they can thrive in life, so they can achieve their goals and their mission in life. That is why I do what I do and I love it. And that really has played in all of my roles as a dietician.

 

Ginny Reddick:

So, a little bit of background about me and who I am, I am a registered dietician and I've been one for 17 years. I can't believe I'm saying 17 years, it feels like I just graduated from college. But anyway, here I am. So, my first role as a dietician I was a bariatric dietician, which means I worked for bariatric surgeons who did weight loss surgery. And I loved that because I really hoped people prepare for surgery but the main thing that I did was help them learn how to eat after surgery and then to help them lose weight, but then also to maintain that weight loss. So I got to track with these patients and these clients for years after their surgery, helping them, empowering them to eat well to fuel their bodies to lose weight and then continue to keep that off.

 

Ginny Reddick:

The next role I played, I was a corporate dietician. So, that I did kind of a 180 of being in the clinical setting then to a business corporation. I worked at Chick-fil-A in their corporate headquarters and I worked in their wellness program. And so what the wellness program was, was we actually had a fitness center, and we had personal trainers on staff, we had event planners, so we worked as a team to help the employees of Chick-fil-A really have their best energy so they could be the best employees, so they could be the best spouse, parent, community volunteer, you name it. Whatever their roles they were playing, we helped empower them to do that their best. And we really focused on energy and how they could have their best energy so that came through nutrition and exercise, and also we did fun events for their families as well. So we would go hiking in the Tetons, and again, just kind of incorporating wellness and nutrition and exercise into their daily life.

 

Ginny Reddick:

I loved that and I actually worked as the nutrition coordinator for most of my time there but I also ended up managing the programs, so did more of the vision of the program for that too and I loved that.

 

Ginny Reddick:

Now, what I currently do is private practice. So I work with individuals, I work with families, I work with children and adolescents, I work with athletes. So, I kind of have a wide variety of people I work with, helping them achieve their health goals. I also work part time for an integrated medical practice, and what that is, is we focus on functional medicine where we combine Chinese medicine, Ayurvedic medicine, and Western medicine to help our clients get to the root cause of their issues. We really try to help them heal from the inside out. Nutrition plays a huge part of that, a lot of it starts in your gut, you probably have heard that buzzword. Starts in your gut, and so that's what I do is I actually help implement, help people implement the nutrition and eating protocols that we have, create meal plans for them, and that's something that I love. I loved the integrative nutrition because again we're really trying to help people heal from the inside out, so they too have their best energy to live and thrive their best life.

 

Parker Bane:

Now this isn't the first experience that NAAE has had with you, is it Ginny?

 

Ginny Reddick:

No.

 

Parker Bane:

In fact you've presented and shared your information with accelerate, which is a program for mid-career agricultural educators. So, why do you think that nutrition and wellness is so important for anyone, but particularly agricultural educators?

 

Ginny Reddick:

We'll go back to my, kind of main focused word, which is, it's all about energy. And we know that our physical energy matters, right? And we know that food is our fuel for physical energy. But food effects not just our physical energy but our emotional energy, our mental energy, our relational energy. It really, it touches every part of us and we know that. I can just say the word hangry and you probably all would be like, "Oh yes, I know what feels like." And that encompasses not just physical hunger, I mean, yes, when you're hangry you're like, "Where is the nearest food option?" And usually it's something quick and carbohydrate filled, but it's also when we start having what we call brain fog or we can't think as clearly. And so a lot of people talk about that, we're like, "I can't think very clearly." Or you're sitting there trying formulate a sentence and you can't very well, or it also effects our emotional energy. When we're hangry, we're irritable. So, we're somewhat-

 

Parker Bane:

No, never.

 

Ginny Reddick:

...Right, exactly. You could try so hard to be your best but if someone just does that one thing and you're hangry it just can cause you to snap, right? Or you just zone out and you don't pay attention.

 

Parker Bane:

I really hope that my wife and several of my former students are listening to this and taking notes right now, because you're explaining years of Parker Bane relationship.

 

Ginny Reddick:

Exactly.

 

Parker Bane:

So glad to hear you bring up the hangry piece, that is validating.

 

Ginny Reddick:

Right, exactly. And we have all felt that way. And it encompasses our physical, emotional, relational, mental energy. So I say, "Why is nutritional wellness so important?" It is because it is going to help you have your best energy. And I say this, "Not only your best energy in the morning but also mid day and evening," that's always something that I focus on. You not only want your best energy, you want your best energy consistently. You want it throughout the day so you can be that best version of yourself, do your best work every point of your day not just either in the morning or the evening if you're more of a morning person or evening person. No, you can truly be thriving throughout your day if you're fueling yourself properly.

 

Alan Green:

Absolutely. And that is actually a great lead in to our next question. So, right now when we're recording this episode it's the beginning of August, it'll air the end of August. And that means that a lot of teachers right now are either just starting school or they're getting ready to go back, whether that's remote or whether that's in person. And one thing that's very common for teachers is, this is the time of year where they might set goals for themselves, initiatives, intentions for the upcoming year, particularly around health and wellness and diet. What advice would you give to someone who's working in education for setting and sticking to those intentions in order to help them have a successful year?

 

Ginny Reddick:

Yes, that's a great question. So, the best phrase I can say, "If you can take anything with you," well besides some of the other nutrition principles. But, really if you can think, "Okay, I need to find my why." I love to start off all of my coaching sessions with, "Okay, tell me why the goal that you have even matters to you." So that would be what I would say is going to be a fuel for you, and you've got to have that intrinsic reason why, that you're going to choose an apple over a brownie. We've got to have that, because that's going to help fuel us to make the wise decision.

 

Ginny Reddick:

So when I start off talking a coaching session with someone I always say, "Okay, paint me a picture of what you would feel like, what you would be doing, what you would look like in a year from now." I love to use a year because it's like, "Okay, that's doable." You can kind of think in a years term, you're like, "Okay, this is my vision." And I want you to paint the picture like, "This is what I would be doing, this is how I would feel, this is how I would look." I mean you name it. And that, a lot of times just painting that picture helps you get to, "Why, why does this matter?"

 

Ginny Reddick:

And it could be, "Because I want to be playing with... I want to have, at the end of my day, I want to have energy to play with my kids. Or I want to be just as engaged in helping my students learn at the end of the year as the beginning of the year. Or it could be I have this goal of I'm going to be... By the end of the year I'm going to run this half marathon." I mean everybody's goals will be different and their reasons why, but it's just so good to think of, "Okay, paint a picture of what you would be like and what you would feel like in a year and then go back to, that's why."

 

Ginny Reddick:

Find your why of why having a health goal, having a nutrition goal matters to you because I've had people who say, "Okay, I want to lose this weight to get into this by this date." That's great, I mean sometimes those short term goals we have those and those are good, but a lot of times it's real hard to choose like I said, the apple, especially when there's donuts at the beginning of school or teacher appreciation week and people are bringing in... They love to bring in food, right? And so it just helps to fuel your choice in that and help you... You can either choose... You can choose the apple and say, "I know this is going to fuel me better." Or you can say, "No, I make this choice right now and that's great, but I know for dinner this is what I'm going to have." So it just really empowers you to think of nutrition more holistically and really help you keep those goals in front of you.

 

Parker Bane:

So is it fair to say that the "why" piece is a psychological component, primarily?

 

Ginny Reddick:

Yeah, exactly it.

 

Parker Bane:

So, as kind of a follow up on that, one of the things that I think agriculture educators struggle with is the guilt factor. You know, we're always in competition with our peers, there's always something more that we want to do, so what advice do you have for somebody in that psychological piece for getting over that hump of guilt to where they figure out that it's okay to take care of themselves and it's okay to make different choices?

 

Ginny Reddick:

That's a great question. And that I really would probably point back to the vision, the why. And making sure that you kind of go back, you have a lot of people pulling at you and saying all these things but you've come back to this vision of what you want to be and how you want to... what you want to be doing, how you want to be... I mean, what you want to be fulfilling in your life in that year timeframe. So a lot of times when people do come back and say, "Well gosh, I have this, my kids pull me this way, or my significant other doesn't want to do the same thing as I do." That's a lot or "I'm just too busy.

 

Ginny Reddick:

It can be like, "Okay, well, but remember this vision, remember the picture you painted, and you said, this is where you want to be, and this is who you want to be. And that is the reason why and so it's okay to stand up for that." And to say, "This is where I want to be and to stick to that." So I always like to go, that's why I like to start off my sessions with that. And always, always like to go back to that, because that really does help kind of, when a lot of outside factors come in and pull you in different directions, you can go back to the center, and your kind of intrinsic reason why.

 

Parker Bane:

That is great advice. And, I hope people are taking notes feverishly as they're listening. So, one of the problems that we have as agricultural educators is, we kind of talked about time on a macro scale, looking at what are your goals within a year? But what about just getting through a really long day, I know that there are a lot of agricultural educators that work really long hours. And so how do they keep their energy up not only when they're with their students for however long that day might be, but also for their families when they get home?

 

Ginny Reddick:

Yes, so this brings us to the very practical nutrition principles. So, there are three foundational nutrition principles that I recommend, for, I really recommend for everyone. And so I recommend this for everyone who's listening, because no matter what season you're in, and that's what I always like to say is, "Honestly, it can be for you right now, it could be for your children, it could be for you five years down the road. These are foundational principles that what you want to be implementing every single day." Now, in different season of your seasons of your life, you may eat differently, like, okay, if you're maybe you're trying to heal from a disease, so you may be eating, like slightly different, maybe taking away certain foods and adding some back in or maybe you are training for a minute and a half marathon, maybe you're training for something like that, well, you may eat a little differently in that timeframe. But the key is, you're still following these principles.

 

Ginny Reddick:

So like I said, these are three key foundational nutrition principles that you can take with you now and throughout the rest of your life. Number one, is eat consistently. So what I mean by that is, we want to eat every three to four hours throughout the day. So that could look like, you wake up at 6, you eat at 7, than you maybe are eating around 11:30. And then you're having a snack around 3:00 or 3:30, and then dinner around 6 or 6:30. So, when I say eat consistently, I don't mean eat all the time, it just means eat in that three to four hour range. And I'd love to get that range just because it gives you some flexibility based on your day, based on your hunger. The key is you don't want to go over four hours. Why? Because your blood sugar drops and we get hangry. We go back to that piece, so we get hangry. And you probably... most of us have all felt that way before. And we don't need to eat really before three hours because then that's just constantly eating we need to give our body a little bit of a break.

 

Ginny Reddick:

So that three to four hours is such a sweet spot to stabilize your blood sugar. And the reason why stabilizing your blood sugar or your blood glucose is so essential is thats what supplies your body with energy. Every cell runs off of glucose. So, in order to get keep ourselves healthy and to have that quality energy. That's why we have to feed ourselves. And that's why eating in that consistent interval of that three to four hours is so essential to having energy throughout the day. So that's number one.

 

Ginny Reddick:

Number two is, "Okay, now that I know how I need to eat consistently, what do I eat within that?" You want to make sure you're eating protein, fat and fiber at every meal and snack. So those are kind of big, big words. And you probably know a lot about what a protein food is and what fat food is. But just a little bit of information about both of all three of those. Protein is just so essential to helping, you know build your muscle building, be a building block for that.

 

Ginny Reddick:

But it is so essential in stabilizing your blood sugar too. It supplies your body with energy. It also takes a longest to digest. So it actually fills you up. I mean, you probably have felt this, if you don't eat a meal or snack with... if you eat a meal or snack without protein, you're hungry an hour later. For instance, you eat a bag of pretzels, you're hungry very quickly after that. But if you eat a handful of peanuts, it's going to stay with you a little longer. So protein is so essential for that. Fat is again essential too for stabilizing your blood sugar, and it is filling again. If you eat a meal without fat, it doesn't taste good, or you have to add a lot of sugar do it. So fat is so essential for that. And it's so important for just our overall health and balancing of our hormones. It really is so essential for our brain to work well. So fat is such a key piece.

 

Ginny Reddick:

And then fiber. And fiber is not as glamorous and glorious as fat and protein mainly because it's not... it doesn't have a diet named after it, like keto or paleo. But it is so essential to to make sure you're getting that in every day. And again, it builds you up, it helps stabilize your blood sugar, so giving you consistent quality energy throughout the day. Another thing about fiber that is really wonderful, is that it actually is detoxing, it will find toxins in your body and take them out of your body. So the combination of all of those is so powerful in helping you have your best energy and fueling you throughout the day, as well as helping you prevent disease or heal from disease. So they're also essential. Now, you're probably like, "Well, what are foods that are protein, fat and fiber."

 

Ginny Reddick:

Protein foods are pretty much any of your meats, any meat, you know, beef, pork, fish, eggs. All of that... any animal based product is going to be protein. Other protein foods are your nuts and seeds, and beans. So beans are also in lentils, those also have protein. And actually some vegetables have some protein, they're not high in protein, but they do have some protein too. So, the kind of your main focus is any animal products. So again, all your meats, your dairy eggs, than your beans and lentils, legumes and nuts and seeds. Then, fat is all of your oils. So like your olive oil, or avocado oil, or coconut oil, sesame oil, all those oils as well as certain foods like avocados. Nuts and seeds also have it you'll probably hear that a couple times because nuts and seeds actually have protein, fat and fiber. But that has good quality fat as well. And actually most meat or animal products is going to have some fat as well. So, with fat and when when I say you need to have the combination, we're not talking about high high fat here, we're just talking a little bit because it'll help again, stabilize your blood sugar, which fuels your energy levels.

 

Ginny Reddick:

And then fiber is found in vegetables. I mean, all vegetables have fiber. Some fruits do like, berries and fruit that has a crunch. So like your apple or your pears, things like that. Your whole grains, so whole wheat bread, brown rice, quinoa, even some of your starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, those are going to have some fiber as well. And then beans, I think beans and lentils and legumes have fiber as well. So, fiber tends to be a little harder to to get. Most Americans, we get an average of right around 7 to 10. If we're really conscious, maybe around 15 grams of fiber. But the recommendation is that least 25 grams of fiber somewhere between 25 and 35. So you have to be pretty intentional, and you can do it but you just have to be pretty intentional. The American diet tends to be higher in protein and fat than it does fiber. So that's just something to think about is, "Okay, I've got to concentrate on getting all of these, but making sure you're getting fiber as well."

 

Ginny Reddick:

So that is number two. So we've got eating on that 3 to 4 hour window, 3 to 4 hours throughout the day. Making sure every time you're eating, every meal, every snack, you are getting a combination of protein, fat, and fiber. And then number three, it's pretty simple, but just drink water. It is one that we forget is so essential for energy. And why it's because half of our body is water. 70% of our brain is water. If we are dehydrated, we are definitely low on energy, we will not have our quality energy throughout the day. So I recommend drinking about half of your body weight in ounces of water. It's a good goal, you don't have to try it, it may not... it may be difficult to do every day. But sometimes I mean, one thing I love to recommend is just find a water bottle you like and carry it around, you'll carry it around with you if you like it right.

 

Ginny Reddick:

And so just and then you know how much you're drinking, you can track it. So that is so essential. And that's an essential part of energy is drinking water. So those are the big three, eat consistently every 3 to 4 hours, eat protein, fat and fiber every time you're eating and then drink water.

 

Parker Bane:

Where have you been all my life? This is fantastic. And I really hope that we get a huge audience checking this out, this is amazing advice. So thank you for everything that you're doing.

 

Ginny Reddick:

My pleasure.

 

Alan Green:

I was gonna say that, one thing with our podcast, is we really want to provide teachers with tangible things that they can take from the episodes and implement in their life. So, I think those three things that you mentioned, right there are just really strong things that any listener can implement and see a change in their life. Ginny, one question that I have for you that wasn't one that we had originally prepared that your conversation just made me think of it, Ag teachers are on the road a lot. We're traveling for conferences, contests, livestock, shows, conventions, all different types of things. I know from my personal experiences when I was a teacher, that it can be difficult, especially when you're on the road to make eating healthy, or making healthy choices a priority. What would you recommend for Ag teachers or other professionals who might be listening for how to eat healthy and make up those healthy choices while on the road, when they're not right in their kitchen, Or right in their classroom?

 

Ginny Reddick:

That's a great question. And I have some great thoughts on that. Honestly, just to kind of go back to my days at Chick-fil-A, there was a lot, there was a huge department in Chick-fil-A that traveled, that's what they did. They are business consultants and they travel all around to the operators. So that was one of their biggest questions too, is, "How do I eat healthy on the road." And it's difficult. And so I just want to say if you're on the road a lot, I know it's hard. The first thing I'll say is, "Do the very best you can, you don't have control over every circumstance." I wish we did, but we don't.

 

Ginny Reddick:

I wish we did in a lot of areas of life, right, but we don't have control of everything. So you're not going to be able to know exactly how the vegetables were prepared at the restaurant you go to, but you can still choose the vegetables, and you're making a wise choice there. So when I encourage you that, like I said, "We don't have control over everything," but you can still make wise decisions and that can still fuel your energy and help you feel well. So the first thing that I would say is continue to eat consistently. And with travel that may not look like three square meals and one or two snacks. I know when I travel, it doesn't, hardly ever. And so I just say keep that three to four hour schedule of eating.

 

Ginny Reddick:

It does not have to look like a perfectly square meal. But it can still look like fuel. And you can still get things that have protein, fat and fiber that may not look like a plate that where you're sitting down eating some chicken and a salad. So that'd be number one. Then two, when you are thinking of you know, preparing for a trip, I always say pack some things that you know you can fall on if you're in a place where one, you can't get something to eat. Or you're in a place where there's nothing that you feel like will help you when you're eating. So what I say is, snacks that are non perishable that you can pack protein bars, and again, I look for bars that have protein, fat and fiber, just to just to name a few that I like. One is, RXBAR. They're really quality, very few ingredients and they have protein, fat and fiber.

 

Ginny Reddick:

And if you can get ones that don't melt and I've learned that the hard way, because there's chocolate ones, but there's also ones that are blueberry, and mixed berry. Peanut butter and jelly actually is a flavor that's delicious, and it doesn't have chocolate to melt. So, that's a great bar. Two other bars that are really like, one is, Garden of Life Organic Fit bars. I know that's kind of a long sentence, or long name. But they have great protein and fiber and they have very little sugar. So those are good ones. And then Bulletproof, that that brand, Bulletproof, they have bars. And all of their bars are really good too, because they have protein, fat and fiber, and very little sugar.

 

Ginny Reddick:

So that's another thing always look for, is you don't want to have... sometimes with bars, they can just be a lot of sugar. So just trying to look for ones that have, lower in sugar, but if they have good quality, say 10 grams, or more a protein. And at least, 5 to 7 grams of fiber. And anywhere from like 5 to 7 grams of fat, those are going to be good bars. So bars are good ones. Nuts are great one, nuts in trail mix. And you don't have to have the trail mix that has peanut, m&ms in it if you don't want it to melt again. But, those are always so easy. Any nut, any seed has protein, fat and fiber and works great and honestly, you can buy in bulk and put them in snack bags, and you can carry them with you that's really simple.

 

Ginny Reddick:

A lot of times if you don't even have something with you and go into a convenience store, and they have nuts. So, just in any kind of like pinching situation, nuts and seeds are always so good. So those are just some easy ones to always have with you. Another thing when you think about going out to eat, again, you're trying to think protein, fat and fiber. I like when I think about a plate, I like to think okay, I need about half of my plate to be some type of vegetable or fruit. Yes, fruit has a little more sugar. But sometimes you're in a place where there's just not even vegetables, but they do have fruit. So, any kind of fruit or vegetable is half of your plate. And then a fourth of your plate being your protein, whether that's chicken, whether that's, fish or beef or any of it. And then another fourth of your plate could be your kind of grain food, whether that's rice, whether that's bread.

 

Ginny Reddick:

If it's a sandwich, unless you use Chick-fil-A, I like to use it. But if you go to Chick-fil-A and let's say you want the Chargrilled Chicken Sandwich, you count... maybe you do, you can do that sandwich, and then you have a side salad with it, or you have the fruit with it. Or if you want like the grilled chicken nuggets, and you want a small fry, but you don't have any other grain food, like the bread, and then you have the fruit or the salad. So you can kind of balance that way, so fourth of your grain food, the fourth your protein and half of your plate as fruit or vegetable. And then the other one would be just take your water bottle. And the nice thing is now so many places, especially airports, as many of us... I know many of us aren't going on airplanes, but sometimes it's essential, right. And so if you're in the airport, they have place for you to fill up your water bottle, which is wonderful.

 

Ginny Reddick:

And you can have that with you. But always just drinking water because again, one thing I didn't mention about water was that a lot of times when we think we're hungry, we're really just dehydrated and we just need water. So a lot of times just drinking water can curb some of those hunger cravings if it's not been your like 3 to 4 hour window yet.

 

Alan Green:

And I think as far as like the water bottle thing that's such a great thing for teachers to have is just a high quality water bottle. And I know a lot of schools have the drinking fountains where there's a spot to fill up your water bottle. And also two of the district that I taught at, it wasn't there right away and teachers asked for it and student asks for it and they were able to put it in. So I think that's another thing too is, that is an option and use your voice if that's something that you think your school would use. Ginny one thing that I really struggled with my first two years of teaching was, it's just that I would have a mindset, "Oh, I have these meals at home. I brought a healthy lunch. I ate a healthy breakfast." But I would snack throughout the day. And not necessarily like the snacks that you mentioned, but the things that were sweet, salty, fried. How would you recommend or what would you recommend to teachers to help curb that so that they're making those healthy snack choices versus things that aren't as healthy?

 

Ginny Reddick:

Yeah, I feel like I'm kind of always going back to those principles. But what helps the thing that helps most with curbing the sweet cravings is fueling yourself with the like I say, "I don't like to use right or wrong, but the quality foods and that is protein, fat and fiber." So sometimes I think we get distracted by what is healthy. And we forget that we need all those ingredients, because, for instance, you can eat a salad, but if you didn't have some fat on that salad, some people like, "Okay, I'm trying so hard, I'm not going to put dressing on it or what not," then you didn't get any fat. And it can really cause you to have sweet cravings later. Or if you didn't put protein on it, a lot of times we can eat, will... or enough protein for sure. A lot of times we can have a little protein. But if we don't have, I recommend, and I use grams, sometimes it's harder to think about grams, but somewhere between 20 and 25 grams of protein at a meal, which is the equivalent about 3 to 4 ounces, which is about the size of the palm of your hand, for a piece of meat.

 

Ginny Reddick:

So if we don't get that, we're going to crave sweets. So it's so important to make sure you're getting all the components, the protein, fat and fiber. If you're missing one, let's say you had just, let's say a breakfast, you just had eggs. And like, let's say you've had eggs and a little bit of bacon, if you're doing more of a paleo style eating, but then you don't have any fiber there. Well, it's gonna be easy to kind of start like craving later on down the road if you didn't have the fiber piece too. So I would say it's so essential to have all three of those every time you're eating. And then you know, I think it's important to have some things that you do... to have some sweet options that contain protein, fat and fiber. IE, like trail mix, I mean, trail mix actually has protein, fat and fiber. And sometimes for me, that's a really great way to curb a sweet craving, but also get the other things that I need.

 

Ginny Reddick:

Or if you're something... if you're craving salty. For instance, the nuts, just having like a handful of nuts gives you that salty instead of reaching for the chips. There are foods out there now, one in particular is called Flacker Crackers, which is so funny, I think. But they're, they're flaxseed crackers. And the beauty of these crackers, they actually have protein, fat and fiber, like in good quantities, because it's a flaxseed. And they have several different flavors. So, it's sometimes nice to have those things on hand where you're like, "I'm really craving that salty, like craving the chips. But if I have a cracker that has protein, fat and fiber, and I can dip it into hummus or I can dip it into guacamole or put a little bit of nut butter on it."

 

Ginny Reddick:

That satisfies that crunchy, salty craving, or like I said, with a sweet craving, you have a few options. Even in, you can google, this but even doing protein ball, protein energy bites or balls, where you use good whole grain oats. And then you add... you use a nut butter, like a peanut butter to bind it. And then you put some chocolate chips in and you can even add a protein powder to it and then blends all in. And you can have those as just like easy snacks, but they're real satisfying because they got a little bit of a sweet taste, maybe some of those dark chocolate chips. So, the darker the better, in a sense of it doesn't have as much sugar, but it satisfies that sweet.

 

Ginny Reddick:

I think that's another piece. It's not only filling yourself with a protein, fat and fiber, but also making sure you have some options that are sweet or that are salty, but that still contain that protein, fat and fiber.

 

Parker Bane:

I have to apologize to our listeners right now. And the reason being is I edit... I'm getting hungry sitting here listening. It's around lunchtime when we're recording this. So for those of you that are maybe you know, you'll close to that three or four hour window when you're needing a little bit of blood sugar. And all this talk about all these snacks is kind of getting you going here. I want to give my apology, but, we're talking with Ginny Reddick and she is an expert in nutrition and she's helping us out today. So, you've given us a tremendous amount of great advice. But one question that I have is, if we can do only one thing, if there's only one bit of advice that you could share with us that an Ag educator could do to have more energy, what would you recommend?

 

Ginny Reddick:

I'll go back to those three nutrition principles. And they are the key to having your best energy. And I say that, that I believe, not only I believe but science and even practicality can show you that. There are other pieces that are essential for our energy too. For instance, exercise, sleep, they're critical and essential, you know movement. I'll say that instead of like, you don't need to do intense exercise, but just movement is so essential for energy, they're all, they all play a huge piece, all combined together for your best energy. But, there are going to be days where you're not going to move as much, right? We travel, we're on the plane, or we're sitting in a car, or we have to sit at our desk, that's just the nature of life, that there's just going to be days where we're not going to get a chance to maybe do our exercise or move as much.

 

Ginny Reddick:

There are going to be nights where you don't sleep well. I mean, the sleep is always so essential, but there are going to be times like that. If you have young kids, you know exactly what I'm talking about. So, there are gonna be times when both of those may not be as ideal. But, we're always going to eat, wait, even if you're only, if you're only going to eat one time a day, you still are going to eat. So that food is so essential. Its something that we're going to do every single day. So if you can apply these nutrition principles, honestly, if you apply these nutrition principles, you start balancing your blood sugar. That is going to give you energy to want to move, you're going to be like, you're gonna be fueled to be like, "I want to get out."

 

Ginny Reddick:

I was talking to a client Monday, he was like, "Now that I'm starting to do this, I actually want to come home from a very busy, very, very, very busy and high stress job to exercise which I didn't feel that way before." So there there's that, there's the benefit of fueling your body, so then you want that exercise, balancing your blood sugar, and consistent energy throughout the day. And keeping in that cycle actually helps you sleep better. So it can promote good sleep. So, food really affects the other two as well. So I will say, if I can, if there's one thing it'd be applied these three principles. And like I said, it doesn't have to look like three square meals, it could be, kind of more small snacks, but at least you're eating consistently and you're getting that combination of food and you're drinking that water will affect all the areas that also affect your energy.

 

Ginny Reddick:

So that it's that, it's those three nutrition principles.

 

Parker Bane:

So when it comes down to the brass tacks, it's really timing nutrients and water?

 

Ginny Reddick:

Yes.

 

Parker Bane:

Awesome. Awesome.

 

Alan Green:

Awesome. Well, thank you for sharing that. Ginny, one thing for teachers is we make, sometimes these intentions to have these goals to eat healthy and to exercise. What would you recommend to maybe a first year teacher who's really just trying to keep their head above water? Or maybe someone who set these goals, but they're really struggling to implement them? How would you guide them to implementing these healthy choices into their lifestyle?

 

Ginny Reddick:

Oh, that's good question. You know, I would go back to their intrinsic reason why it matters. And I think that's why I love starting off all of, my sessions with individuals to say, "Okay, why does this matter? Paint me that picture." And so when you are, gosh, on a struggle bus, just it's, it's so tough. And you have to... sometimes you're going to have tough times. And it's going to be a week where it was just really hard. But you can still go back to that vision. You can go back to that "why" and you get back to it. And so a lot of times when I have coaching sessions, and we have follow up sessions, and there is that struggle. I'll say, "Okay, let's step back, and let's just talk about, again, why this matters." And sometimes I'll just remind, I'll say, "Let's go back to the vision statement that you created of where you want to be and what you want to be true about who you are in a year."

 

Ginny Reddick:

And, and so that would be where I would go, I would kind of say, "Okay, let's go back." And especially one thing that I thought about with those who are at the early stages of their career, its sometimes it's even good to ask, "Where do you want to be? Who do you want to be even in five to 10 years?" Sometimes that helps with those mundane tasks and getting through a lot of the like, I remember as my early stages, my career, just figuring things out, just treading water. If someone had asked me, "Okay, where do you want to be? Who do you want to be in five to 10 years?"

 

Ginny Reddick:

It would help me focus on some of those habits, even when it was really hard and felt like I was like treading water during that time. So I would even say, "Take it out even further than a year, if you're kind of at that early stage where you're like, just feeling like you just got to survive." Well, we all feel like that at some point, right? But for sure, at that time, maybe take it out to five to 10 years and say okay, "This is where I want to be. These are the goals I had, this is who I want to be." And that really can help. Again, go back to, "Okay, this is why I want to lace up my shoes and go out for this walk."

 

Ginny Reddick:

So ,that that would be my advice is kind of go, again go back to your why. And if you know, again, if you're on that early, early stage, maybe even take it out to five to 10 years because sometimes that's even more appealing because you do have a vision for that. This is where you want to get to, and this is who you want to be.

 

Alan Green:

Absolutely. And I think one thing that's exciting too, is just the, excuse me, the tangible things that you left for our teachers to implement into their life. I think one thing is, any teacher can go and implement these things, and they deserve it. And their students deserve it for them to be at their absolute best and to have, that best energy that they can possibly have. Ginny, thank you so much for joining us today. It was a pleasure having you on.

 

Ginny Reddick:

Oh, it's my pleasure. And thank you all for having me and giving me a chance to actually share this, with all the educators that are listening, is such a pleasure. And it is, I love what I do. And so I love getting a chance to talk about this and hopefully empower everyone who's listening to make some of these even small changes to help you have your best energy.

 

Parker Bane:

Thank you so much for all of this. This has been great.

 

Ginny Reddick:

Well, thank you. It's been my pleasure.

 

Parker Bane:

So there you have it. Another great episode about the importance of Ag teacher nutrition, health and wellness. And how important it is to maintain our energy throughout the day in order to be at our best for ourselves, our students and our families. Before we close, we'd like to again thank Ginny Reddick for joining us on today's podcast episode. We appreciate the concrete steps and advice that she's provided to help our members fuel their bodies and minds with proper nutrition. And finally, if you're interested in learning more about additional resources related to health and wellness, make sure to check out our podcast show notes at www.NAAE.org/podcast.

 

Alan Green:

Thank you for joining us for this episode of connect a podcast by the National Association of Agricultural Educators. It's always hard to say goodbye but we'll be back with more episodes to help you build even more connections to help you grow as a professional. If you'd like what you've heard, we'd love to have you subscribe, rate or give us a review on iTunes or whatever platform you use. So we can help connect more agricultural educators to our podcast. Until next time.

www.naae.org/podcast

 

Alan Green:

Welcome to Connect, a podcast by the National Association of Agricultural Educators. No matter how long you've been in the classroom, we as agricultural educators know the power that connections play in bettering ourselves as educators and strengthening our profession. Connect is a podcast by the National Association of Agricultural Educators and works to educate listeners about NAAE resources, inform them of new and innovative practices and connect current and future agricultural educators and supporters. I'm your host Alan Green, we are excited that you're here, so let's get started.

 

Alan Green:

Hey there and welcome back to Connect, a podcast by the National Association of Agricultural Educators. If this is your first time joining us, welcome. We are excited that you are here and we invite you to visit www.NAAE.org/podcast to check out our previous episodes as well. I'm excited to welcome our very first cohost to the Connect podcast today. We're joined today by Mr. Parker Bane, who is an agricultural educator at Normal Community West High School in Normal, Illinois. Parker has long been a state and national leader in agricultural education and has served NAAE as the Region IV secretary, Region IV vice president, which has led into his current role as the president of the National Association of Agricultural Educators. Parker, welcome.

 

Parker Bane:

Thanks for having me.

 

Alan Green:

Yeah, no problem. Parker and I are excited to kick off this first podcast of a two part series. We'll be having discussions related to health and wellness in nutrition as it relates to the lives of agricultural educators. With everything going on in the world today and with most of our schools looking much different this year, we though that this would be a perfect conversation to have as agricultural educators ease back into the school year or get ready to start in the next few weeks. Parker, I'm sure you can attest to this but one thing that we clearly know about agricultural educators is that they're busy. It's a dynamic profession with a lot of moving parts and sometimes their busy schedules can make putting healthy food and lifestyle choices on the back burner.

 

Parker Bane:

Yeah and another thing that we know is that being an agricultural educator isn't just dynamic in our sense of our schedules but it's a very cognitively complex profession. In the course of a single day, we make hundreds of decisions, we accomplish a variety of tasks, all of which use time and energy. And we want to help agricultural educators find what works best for them, so that they can maintain their energy throughout the day and help them fuel their bodies and minds with proper nutrition that will help them be the best for themselves, their students, their families and ultimately, all the things that they love back home. It's interesting because agriculture educators spend so much time dealing with nutrition. We deal with plant nutrition and animal nutrition, we can tell you how to feed a cow or a sow, we can tell you how to feed your plants, we can tell you how to set up the fertilizer in your greenhouse but a lot of times, we don't know how to feed ourselves.

 

Alan Green:

And before we start, just a disclaimer about our conversations. Everything that we're sharing on the podcast today is strictly for educational and entertainment purposes only. Any serious lifestyle changes should be made only in consultation with your physician.

 

Parker Bane:

On today's podcast, we're excited to welcome two agricultural educators who are passionate about nutrition and wellness and we can't wait to hear their stories and what guidance and advice they have for our members. Our first guest is Mr. Melvin Phelps, Melvin is an agricultural educator at Lowville Academy in Upstate New York. Melvin is a passionate NAAE member, a 2009 National Agriscience teacher ambassador as well as a CASE master teacher.

 

Alan Green:

And we're also joined by my friend, Miss Amanda Twenter, who is an agricultural educator at Eldon Career Center in Eldon, Missouri, where she actually co-teaches with her husband. She's an NAAE member and intern with NAAE in 2015. Amanda and Melvin, thank you so much for joining us today.

 

Amanda Twenter:

Yeah. Thank you so much for having me on. My name is Amanda Twenter and I am starting my fifth year as an agriscience instructor in Eldon, Missouri. So I've just recently transitioned districts and in a time of uncertainty, I'm really excited to get the year started. Along with being an ag teacher, I am an avid runner and a Beachbody coach as well.

 

Alan Green:

Awesome and then Melvin, if you'd like to introduce yourself to our listeners.

 

Melvin Phelps:

Sure, my name is Melvin Phelps and I teach in northern New York at Lowville Academy and Central School. I am starting my 22nd year, teaching agriculture in grades eight through 12. My wife is in agriculture as well and we have five children and a hobby farm at home. And very much in a rural area where dairy cows outnumber people in our county.

 

Parker Bane:

Melvin, you left out the part where you're also actually a legend.

 

Melvin Phelps:

Oh, I am? I didn't realize that.

 

Parker Bane:

Yeah. Oh yeah, a Region VI and CASE and NAAE, so it's an honor to be on with you both.

 

Alan Green:

Melvin and Amanda, thank you so much for joining Parker and I today. If we just want to start off, if you feel comfortable sharing, what has been your experience and what has made you realize the importance of proper nutrition as it fits into our busy lives as agricultural educators?

 

Melvin Phelps:

I guess I'll start out here. I think nutrition and just trying to lead an active life is really important. For me, it was about six years ago that I had my aha moment that I often refer to with people when I talk to them about nutrition and living a healthy lifestyle. I was 38 at the time and my father was 76. And at that point, I was right around 450 pounds and I realized, our birthdays are close, that if I didn't change something, if I didn't do something, I was exactly half the age of my father and I would not make it to 76. And so I needed to do something and so that was my aha moment, when I realized that I was half the age of my father and I needed to do something different and for me, that was gastric bypass.

 

Melvin Phelps:

So I decided that I was going to have the gastric bypass done and I did. That was in the spring, I had my gastric bypass in November, after six months and losing some weight beforehand and making some changes in lifestyle. And then from November to the following November, within a year, I had lost right around 250 pounds that first year. My lowest point, I had gotten down to 207, it was my lowest point and that was a year after surgery. So from 450 pounds. So that's my story and what I did, which I'm sure is a little bit different from other people, you know what I mean? But that's the route that I took. I did that because I felt like I lived an active life, five kids, hobby farm, teaching. I needed a jump-start, I needed to lose weight quickly and I felt like I lived an active enough life to help maintain that and so that was the route that I took.

 

Alan Green:

How about you, Amanda? Was there a pivotal point for you, either before you were a teacher or as you were an agricultural educator, where you realized that importance of proper nutrition?

 

Amanda Twenter:

Yeah, so whenever I looked at these questions, I thought this one was really interesting because you've specified nutrition and it wasn't until probably January of this year, that I realized the importance of nutrition versus just living an active lifestyle. So I'm going to split it into two parts. When I was in high school, my parents got divorced my sophomore year. And I was extremely active in FFA, I was president my senior year. And when a divorce or trauma happens in a family, divorce lasts a long time. So it was still into my senior year, there was still turmoil. And how I dealt with that was I started running and I wasn't running 10 miles a day, I was just running 10 to 15 minutes a day but it was freeing. It was a time that I didn't have any trauma, I didn't have any tragedy weighing on my life, it was just me and the rhythm of my feet. And to this day, running is a coping mechanism for me, it's why I do it.

 

Amanda Twenter:

And nutrition wise, I got to a point after I had my son, that I weighed the heaviest I had ever weighed. I was at 170 pounds and I'm five foot three and so it was a lot. I went from a 5K time of about 31 minutes to almost 40 and so I was like whoa, what do I need to do here to get better at this? I'm a very competitive person, I wanted to be good at running, I wanted to have a decent 5K time. I wanted to run a half marathon again and that's whenever I decided that I needed to do something about that nutrition piece. And that's whenever I had somebody who had been marketing to me for a long time, of you need to join Beachbody. We have these meal plans, we have all this stuff for you. And for me, as a new mom, as a busy teacher, it worked because I could spend that money and I could have that at my hands. Consistency is my word for 2020. January 1st, after the holidays, I realized that I needed something that would be sustainable for me. I think that's a huge deal when you look at nutrition, you can't be perfect all the time and being consistent and sustainable has really been my turning point in having a nutritious lifestyle.

 

Alan Green:

That's awesome. Congratulations on finding what's worked for you and for making that change in your life, that's great.

 

Parker Bane:

Yeah, I think that there are some interesting parallels here in your stories and I think the one thing that I can draw out of this is that there are a lot of tools that are available and each tool is different for the different lifestyles. I can relate to Amanda because Beachbody's been a part of my personal journey as well. But I also know people that have had great success with the gastric bypass. There are some people that have used hypnotism or yoga programs or the martial arts. So I think it's really interesting. So what was it specifically about the tool and what kind of process did you go through to figure out what it was that you were looking for to help get you that edge that you needed to get the process started?

 

Amanda Twenter:

For me, I was just at my lowest low and I knew that I had to have some help. So whenever I realized that I couldn't do this on my own because the past two years, my own way of doing it wasn't working. I needed something that would help me achieve my goals. I had somebody there who I could talk to about my goals and that was almost just another piece of accountability that I didn't have otherwise.

 

Melvin Phelps:

I think for me, like I had mentioned before, I needed that jump-start, I had tried before. Probably the biggest thing that I had to overcome with my surgery is that I was relatively healthy, even at 450 pounds. I took blood pressure medicine but I wasn't diabetic and so for me, my gastric bypass was the first surgery I have ever had and so I had to overcome that aspect. And actually, I was going to have it a few years before I actually did and I decided not to do it because I was scared of surgery. Found another doctor, probably four or five years later and decided that this was the right doctor for me. And really, like I said, I needed a jump-start. At 450 pounds, losing one or two pounds, I wasn't seeing those results and so by that jump-start and being able to lose that weight in a fast manner, really helped me stay motivated because I had so much to lose.

 

Parker Bane:

Awesome. You're moving on to another question. So looking back, as you're talking about your journey, that six years later... And Amanda, yours is somewhere similar timeframe I think, what's changed and how are you doing now? What's changed? What's stayed the same?

 

Amanda Twenter:

I'll start on that one. Whenever I was in high school and then even through college, I ran or worked out when I could. It wasn't a priority for me and as I've grown older and I have gotten more of a schedule, I have a little one at home, my husband and I are both ag teachers in the same department, time is scarce. And I have to be consistent and I have to really have a sustainable regimen that I stick with. And I think that's been my biggest change. As well for women, the older you get, the harder it is to lose weight and the easier it is to put it back on and especially after having a baby. I'm 27 today, actually. So as I get older, as I hit that 30 mark, this is going to be the most important decision I could make and that was a turning point for me. I don't need to lose 10 pounds every six months. I want to stay at a consistent weight for the rest of my life and I think that's been where I'm at now. This is a lifestyle choice and it's not just a right here, right now moment idea. This is going to be with me for the long haul.

 

Alan Green:

Well first Amanda, happy birthday even though in this air zone it won't be your birthday anymore. And then we'll come back to what you mentioned about making time for physical activity and the schedule question a little bit. How about you, Melvin? What has changed? What's stayed the same with you?

 

Melvin Phelps:

Well, it's interesting because as different as Amanda and I's stories are, there's a lot of things that are the same and much of it goes back to lifestyle. They often say going through the classes and things like that before having surgery, "I used to live to eat, now I eat to live." And so knowing what a portion is and knowing that you know what? I'm full after three bites of that piece of pie and I'm going to have that pie again later in my life, so I don't need to have two or three pieces, you know what I mean? And so it really is a lifestyle change and it's a mentality. I used to go into a restaurant and I would ask the waiter or the waitress, "What meal do you get the biggest portion?" And that's how I ordered, was whichever meal I could get that I would have the largest portion so I wouldn't walk away hungry.

 

Melvin Phelps:

Now, I go in and I order what sounds good. And very often, I split a meal with my wife or I bring half of it home and that's okay, I don't have to finish my plate. And definitely, I lost a lot of weight that first year and typically with gastric bypass, you get to a low and then you add some back on. And so right now, I'm right around 250, is where my stabilizing weight has been. And so to maintain that and to think to yourself, I'm going to have that again, I don't need to have the biggest portion. It's definitely a lifestyle and it's a change in how you think. And so staying on top of that, it's not just you lose it and you don't have to worry about it again. You've always got to be thinking and you've always got to be thinking, do I need that right now?

 

Amanda Twenter:

And I'm going to piggyback off of Melvin a little bit because his points are wonderful and I feel them in my soul too, as he's talking. So I think this is a big picture idea, it's not so much just it's all about food. It's about the idea of a longer lasting and healthy life. And for me, I'm addicted to food and I had to realize that. Being raised, after school, after elementary school, we'd go to Walmart and there was a McDonald's in our Walmart. Welcome to the Midwest, right? And I would go in and get a large order of fries and that became a habit. I would go to Casey's Pizza and get two slices of pizza after school. And those habits have lasted with me through college into my adult life and that's really hard to break that cycle. And on top of that, I have family members who are addicted to other things besides food and I know how easy it is to make that transition and I don't want that, I don't want that for my family. And this was my first step in saying no to that lifestyle.

 

Parker Bane:

Yeah, there's a lot. It's tough because I think one of the great evils right now that we deal with is we feel like we're all so isolated, even though we've had more tools to connect than we've ever had to connect before. And particularly in the arenas of health and nutrition, that's one of the things that seems to be really tough, so I'm really glad that both of you brought up those connections and also those connections to your prior habits. I remember in my own story, I had to count calories and one of the first things that I realized I was doing was, as a habit, I was stopping by the gas station on my way to school, buying two Hostess Pudding Pies at 800 calories each and a large Coke in the fountain that was 320 calories. So I was knocking out 2000 calories just before I ever really hit 8:00 AM. And I think the number of people that do that is really, really surprising. So I'm very glad to hear you share that because for those of you that are listening, it's important to know that we're not alone. There are a lot of people that are facing these things and these problems in their lives.

 

Melvin Phelps:

I think it's crazy you bring that up, Parker. Driving to state fair, we're close enough to our state fair that we'd go down for the day and come back, for contests and the CDs and that sort of stuff. So I would get a Frappucino before I got to school, so I'd have it driving down, we're about an hour and a half from Syracuse. And then when we left state fair, after having state fair food, I'd grab a Frappucino in Syracuse for my drive home, to help stay awake and things like that. And then I realized, those drinks are almost 1000 calories each.

 

Parker Bane:

Wow.

 

Melvin Phelps:

That was in two drinks, 2000 calories and that was just mind blowing when I started to look at those things. I think one of the greatest things is having calories posted when you're ordering food because that helps my conscious decision making, you know what I mean? Not that I necessarily go in thinking okay, I only have X number of calories. But if I'm not sure what I want, I'm going to lean towards something that has fewer calories in it.

 

Alan Green:

So Parker and Melvin, you talked a little bit about how your day started off prior to your experiences that you've had. How do you guys kick-start your day now? Now that you've had that revelation in your life about the importance of a healthy lifestyle and the importance of proper nutrition, what does your morning look like and how do you develop that energy, get that energy up to last throughout the day?

 

Melvin Phelps:

Well for me, protein is a big thing when you have gastric bypass, consuming a lot of protein. And so I've maintained that, I used to eat... An omelet wasn't an omelet unless you had six eggs in it. And now, usually in the morning, I'll have a coffee and I have one egg, whether that's an egg sandwich but it's only one egg. An omelet, one egg makes a perfectly good omelet. This morning, I had a one egg omelet with broccoli and mushrooms and onions in it and some cheddar cheese. And so I feel sluggish if I don't have protein, so I try to consume as much protein as I can. And that's the other thing and we'll talk about this later, with the schedules of an ag teacher or anybody that is doing well in a career. It doesn't matter your career, if you're doing well, it's never a nine to five job, right? It's always extra time and it's busy. And so just the little things to help maintain that, like having just a one egg omelet in the morning or an egg sandwich or something like that. That's how I start my day because I definitely feel it if I don't have that protein.

 

Parker Bane:

Yeah, in my case, I have some very similar things. But what I'll do is I'll get up in the morning and the very first thing that I do is I take care of whatever chores I have to do and then I sit down and I have a routine of pre-workout stuff that I take. And that's my kick-starter for the day and then I'll go and I'll actually do my workouts in the morning. And when I first started on this journey, my workouts were typically in the evening. Now my schedule has changed as such and I was able to prioritize getting up in the morning and I've never looked back. But those products are helpful to me, you might be able to argue that it's perhaps a crutch but it's something that I think I feel better when I take.

 

Parker Bane:

And then what I end up doing is I also have that as my time, as I'm waiting for the pre-workout to kick in, that's my time to read and reflect. So I'll take care of some spiritual things, I'll take care of some devotions first thing in the morning and then I'll go take care of my workout and then I have a routine with my breakfast. I have a shake that I make and my shakes are very similar, just like what Melvin talked about a little bit. I think that that routine, while it sounds boring, I think that that's something that has helped keep me on track because I know what I'm putting in my body, I know what calories are there and I know what the nutrients are that I'm getting from those and I think those really help.

 

Amanda Twenter:

Yeah, I agree with everything that's already been said. My point of view is a little bit different because I've got a little one at home that I have no clue how long it takes to get those guys ready and get out the door. And that, it's so hard, it's still a challenge every day, of how can I fit everything in without having to get up at 3:30 in the morning to get my run in? And I'm really lucky, I live in a small town, that we actually have a run club. And so I try really hard to make it twice a week, early in the morning, to go on runs with my friends in that group. And I think it's important for me to get those done in the morning. Most of the time, I workout in the afternoon or in the evening, just because it works better for my schedule and I don't wake my whole household up.

 

Amanda Twenter:

When it comes to food, I always drink a shake in the morning. And before I started the health journey, I guess we'll call it, I used to make shakes that had probably close to 1000 calories in it because I didn't really know what I was doing. I didn't realize I only needed a quarter cup of fruit and I didn't need the sugary yogurt in there. So having a protein shake has been a wonderful experience for me, it's just like what Melvin said, that protein really keeps your energy up through the day. I actually have gotten to the point where I'll do my protein shake in the afternoon sometimes, just as a pick me up to get through the rest of the evening as well.

 

Parker Bane:

We all know that agricultural educators work long hours, sometimes they're irregular hours, sometimes there can be a lot of stress involved, especially seasonally. So how do we keep our energy the best for our students and even more importantly, our families, when we get home from our long days at work?

 

Alan Green:

So I'll actually start off and share my answer. So I don't have kids at home, it's just me and my wife but we actually went to a chiropractor for the first time a couple months ago and one of the problems that I was having is the energy. I would have a lot of energy in the morning but it wouldn't last and so that was one thing that I shared with her. She actually recommended that I increase the amount of vitamin C that I take each day, simply because I didn't have enough vitamin C to really maximize the iron that I was intaking. My iron was fine but that vitamin C is important in carrying out that process. And I think that's a very specific example for me but I think it goes back to the conversation that we've been having so far, that it's different for everyone. There's different products, there's different resources. Something as little as taking vitamin C pills, to something as big as joining a running club. Everyone's going to have that different answer and it's important that our listeners determine what that is for them. To do some research, try different things and see what works for them.

 

Parker Bane:

Yeah, absolutely. And the ability to look at something and say yeah, this is working for me, this is something that I want to make a part of my daily routine. And also, the ability to look at things because supplements in particular are really expensive and there's a lot of marketing, a lot of hype that goes through them. But it is okay for you to look at something and say yeah, this makes me feel better. And it's also okay to look at something and say you know what? I can do without this. So I can relate to that supplement journey. So Amanda, Melvin, how do you feel?

 

Amanda Twenter:

I think mental health is extremely important and during COVID-19, I realized how draining it can be to sit and worry about things constantly. And I think being able to have an outlet for that is so important on keeping your energy up day to day. And whether that's starting your day out with prayer or devotion, going for a 30 minute run, working out, I think by the end of that day, it gives you energy to do those things. So keeping your mental health in check is so important, especially right now.

 

Melvin Phelps:

I think for me and I guess this is the great thing about this because I think Amanda and I have a lot of things in common but I'm sure our lifestyles are completely different. So for me, having animals at home, it doesn't matter how long your day is, you still got to do chores, you know what I mean? So I don't run, I don't necessarily go out for walks but I try to make conscious decisions every day and so for me, those animals. And that's time that I spend with my boys, the two boys that we've got at home right now because everybody else is graduated and gone off to do bigger and better things, are going into eighth and ninth grade. So we have animals at home, so in the morning, that's part of the morning routine, is getting up and helping do chores and doing chores at night.

 

Melvin Phelps:

No matter what time you get back or how tired you are, those animals still need feed, they still need water because they rely on us. And so I think that's huge, is that routine and doing things that are nonnegotiable. And so maybe that's taking care of your animals, maybe that's going for that run, you know what I mean? So that's what I do, is try to make sure that I fill some of my schedule and to be honest, it's okay. Sometimes, if I'm getting home at 10 o'clock at night and the boys have gotten home before me and chores are all done, sometimes I don't get to those things and sometimes you just don't have energy because that's the life that we live. I'm lucky, my wife is an ag teacher so we run similar schedules and sometimes it's very crazy and hectic but I have a great support system at home that understands that too.

 

Alan Green:

Melvin, thanks for sharing that. One thing that we as NAAE recognize is that the first couple years of being an agriculture educator can be hard, it can be difficult. It's a lifestyle change, there's struggles and frustrations. What advice would you give to an early career teacher or somebody who's struggling with nutrition and energy? How would you guide them to feel successful in this area?

 

Melvin Phelps:

My recommendation is make sure you're setting goals that are attainable. To say well, I got to lose 100 pounds, start out small. And there's lots of things that you can do to meet those goals, maybe it's five pounds or 10 pounds at a time or maybe it's what am I going to do? For me, prior to my surgery, I found a routine. So Sunday night, I would make my lunches for the whole week and it was the same lunch, I'd have yogurt with fruit and then I'd put granola on it. And I made five of those and I brought them to school on Monday morning with me, stuck them in my refrigerator and I didn't have to worry about lunch. Because I found that if I didn't make my lunch on Sunday, if I didn't have time because we were running behind on Tuesday morning, it was too easy, we've got an open campus, I could run out to McDonald's, I could grab something else, I could eat from our cafeteria. You know what I mean? And so that routine of every Sunday night, I made my five yogurts with fruit and granola, stuck them in the refrigerator and I didn't have to worry about lunch all week. So that goes back to that time management as well. But just trying to come up with some small steps to get started and something that is attainable, I think is really important.

 

Amanda Twenter:

I agree 100%. I think that it's extremely important to pencil out some time for yourself and as a first year ag teacher, you are going to have pressure. You're going to have pressure on yourself from a school board, from past teachers, mentors, all of that stuff but at the end of the day, you have to be okay with saying no to some stuff and that's a really hard lesson for first and second year teachers to learn. And I'm not advocating for going in and changing everything and not showing up to officer meetings, that's not what I'm saying at all. What I'm saying is, you just need to make sure and have some time for yourself. And my suggestion was pretty much going to be what Melvin said, if you have a late night chapter meeting or a chapter activity, have a snack, have something that's going to tie you over until you go home and be able to eat. Fast-food every once in a while is A okay but the amount of sodium that's in those food products, it's not good for you. And so having those meals premade, ready to go, it just fulfills you more than that quick fix at a gas station or wherever that might be.

 

Parker Bane:

Awesome suggestions on all of this. So I think we're ready for the next question, which would be how can ag educators and what advice do you have for making more time for physical activity? And also, making more time for the planning piece and the executing the nutritional piece because these things take time and sometimes, that's the biggest barrier. So what's worked for you and what would you recommend to others?

 

Amanda Twenter:

On my end, I had a conversation with my careers center director, probably my second year teaching. And we had gone to an industry tour that they had gyms set up for their employees. And that meant that at lunch, anytime during the day, they had an hour to go workout. And I thought that was the most incredible thing that a company could do for their employees, I thought it was awesome. And my career center director was on the tour with us and we started talking and one of the things, it was a bigger district and we talked about... And I said, "Man, if I could just use my plan period all the way through and get all of my work done, by the end of that day, I don't feel tied down to staying at school until 5:00 PM. When my contract time is over, I can go for my run." And after him and I had that conversation and there was that step towards, I've got to make time for myself because this is important for me to be a better educator, that was great. So when that bell rang and I was there for my last 15 minutes, if I utilized my time at school, I didn't feel guilty leaving and going to workout and get that time for myself. There were many times I came back to school after my workout but I made sure to go and get that done.

 

Melvin Phelps:

For me, it's a lot of conscious decisions. I bought a Fitbit and tracked my steps. Before, I was like, you know what? I'm on my feet all day and they recommend 10,000 steps. If you walk 10,000 steps, you're walking more than... I don't know, I think it's three quarters of the American population. And so I was like, you know what? I'm on my feet all day, so I bought a Fitbit. And I was averaging five to 6000 steps a day and I was just blown away that I was not walking as much as what I thought. And so just keeping track of that made a huge difference and I would walk... Winter time, we average 200 inches of snow a year, so sometimes it's hard to get out. But my wife and I, if it was eight o'clock at night, we'd go walk down to our school district and walk the halls in the building. So it made me more mindful when I was at school. Parking at the other end of the parking lot, I call very few colleagues now. And you know what? It takes time out of my day but I walk to see them now, instead of giving them a call if I have a question during my plan period.

 

Melvin Phelps:

If I got to go up to the office, I take the long way to get to the office instead of the quickest way. And so maybe if I didn't do some of those things, then I'd have time to workout more at the end of the day. But for me, those were easy steps that I could do to increase my activity for the day. I also found that getting home at night, I wouldn't sit down. And to think about before I had my surgery and the weight that I lost, I was carrying around two 100 pound bags of feed every day. No wonder I'd come home at five o'clock and just sit down for the evening and watch TV. And so when I lost that weight, I made it a point and I still make it a point, to be outside and to work in the garage and putter around the house and to stay active that way.

 

Parker Bane:

The psychological aspects of this topic are just incredibly fascinating to me. The guilt has come up several times and that's one of the things that I think is critically important, is that teachers understand that their health matters and that you can't serve your students if you're not feeling well and that you can't serve your students if you're not healthy. So I'm glad that that has come up and that's one of the biggest challenges, is that people need to understand that it's okay to take some time and prioritize your own health and it will make you a better teacher in the end.

 

Parker Bane:

And I'm so glad that Melvin brought up the concept of the Fitbit. Even one of the challenges that I have with the Beachbody programming is that a lot of the Beachbody programming, when you get on and you watch the videos, the models are all fit, they're not really modifying what they're doing. And so it's really easy to psych yourself out into thinking you can't do this but the thing that I think is beautiful about the fitness tracking tools, no matter what you chose to use, is that the competition is not with the model on the TV screen. The competition isn't with the gym teacher down the hall that exercises all the time. The competition is between you and yourself and what it is that you need to do to improve your own personal health. And I think that that's really important psychologically. I know that it's done me a lot of good and I think that it's done a lot of people a lot of good.

 

Melvin Phelps:

Along with that too, I run a Facebook page for New York ag teachers, right? Similar to the national one but for New York. And so I put on there one time, my handle for my username for Fitbit. So there's probably three or four groups that are in daily challenges or weekly challenges, ag teachers. They're out there. If you put it out there and look for those ag teachers. Now, I upgraded to an Apple Watch, so I don't think that necessarily coincides with the Fitbit anymore but there's still teachers out there that I know, there's probably 30 teachers in New York State that are doing Fitbit challenges with other ag teachers. And it's cool to see national convention time and week sets during the summer at Oswegatchie, the numbers through the roof, 25,000 steps in a day. So it's cool to see that grouping, you're not in this alone. There's other ag teachers in your area that do these challenges, so go ahead and try to reach out and find out where you can fit into some of those groups.

 

Alan Green:

And Melvin, I'm so happy that you mentioned that competition part. One thing that I was going to add is that if you're struggling to find time for physical activity in your daily life and in your daily schedule, find someone to hold you accountable. Odds are, you're not the only one that's struggling with this. Find a coworker, another ag teacher, your spouse, a friend, someone who you can hold accountable, so that you can make it a priority in your daily life. So as we wrap up our last conversation, one thing that we've really been enjoying about this podcast series, we really want to provide ag teachers with tangible things that they can take from these conversations and they can implement in their daily lives. So this, I think is something that all ag teachers can relate to and that has to do with the snack drawer. What types of snacks would you recommend for a snack drawer in your classroom and what is your go to healthy snack choice?

 

Amanda Twenter:

So something that I learned on the nutrition side is that there are healthy alternatives for everything. And sometimes, those healthy alternatives are even better or more satisfying than what that Snickers bar would be that you have in your drawer. And some suggestions I have are go to Aldis or Trader Joe's, if you have those in your area. They have so many healthy alternatives. I love cauliflower rice, I use it on taco bowls, I use it in casseroles. It's great and it's easy and I can go to the store and I can get it. And in my garden, I can make it myself. Same with spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles, those are great and easy things that you can do, that you don't have all of those negative effects of the easy way out of the other products.

 

Amanda Twenter:

When we talk about the snack drawer, I love fruit. And so I will always try to keep oranges, bananas, those sort of things, at my office and that's what I'll snack on. Apples and peanut butter is another one of my favorites, as well as filling up on water. I struggle with my water intake a little bit but it's so important because it doesn't allow me to snack all day. And so I invested in a really great water bottle, I actually have a couple. They're 32 ounces and I try to get three to four of those a day. And if I can do that, I don't feel as hungry come two o'clock or three o'clock, whenever school's over.

 

Melvin Phelps:

For my snacks, they're healthier than the alternative. I love yogurt and so I get it at Aldi and I get a strawberry banana yogurt and then I have... This probably sounds weird but the peanut butter filled pretzels and so I put those on top of the yogurt. Because for me, protein is huge. If I'm feeling sluggish, it's because of my protein intake and so I just put four or five of those on top of a little cup of yogurt and that does it for me, that's really good for me. And it's a boost, it's a little bit salty, if you need something that's a little bit salty. And I portion everything out into the snack size Ziploc baggies, which I think is huge, so that it's not a huge bag that you're pulling out handfuls. So that's my go to thing.

 

Melvin Phelps:

Something that a lot of people that I've talked to... And this probably goes back to the nutrition and energy that I just thought about, was your eating habits in general. When you do gastric bypass, you're not supposed to drink anything a half an hour before you eat or an hour after. So that you're digesting and you're filling your stomach with food and you don't drink with a meal. And so I still don't drink with any meal. If they bring me a glass of water with my meal at a restaurant, I ask them to take it away. And you eat a lot less, you're not washing it down with anything and so something as simple as that... My wife did that and has done that and instead of eating a whole sub, it's a half a sub because you're filling your stomach with food instead of food and water or whatever that drink is. And so you're consuming less by something as simple as not drinking when you eat.

 

Amanda Twenter:

To piggyback of Melvin too, before I made the switch on nutrition, I would eat Hamburger Helper all the time. I'd cook it for my family, it was easy and whenever we finished an entire box with two adults and a one year old, I knew that we probably had a little bit of portion issues. And I got the Beachbody containers, they're $10 and they've been a life changing system. And so it pretty much breaks down how much protein you should have in a day and I fill those containers for my lunches and that's what I eat. And so what Melvin was talking about with his portioning of his pretzels in those snack bags, that's the same thing I do. Because if you're eating out of the chip bag or whatever it might be, you're probably going to overindulge because it's there and you can and I think that's important. I don't eat ice-cream anymore and I was eating ice-cream every night of the week. But instead, I use Chobani Yogurts and they're the Flips and that's my treat. And I might not have them every day but it's protein, it's delicious and it satisfies by body's needs more than what the ice-cream would do.

 

Parker Bane:

The yogurt is a really common one. There are some Greek yogurts that are very much... They create that ice-cream feel. I use Dannon Oikos Triple Zero and it's been a phenomenal snack for me. And then plus, it gives the dairy farmers a little bit of a boost too. So I think that dairy, if properly eaten and consumed, are some of my favorite things. But it's amazing the amount of things that are out there. The one question I'll ask though, have any of you run into problems in your schools with having a snack drawer and then also having students with allergies interacting? Has that gotten into an issue?

 

Amanda Twenter:

Not on my end.

 

Melvin Phelps:

I haven't had an issue. My wife though, her classroom had to be a peanut butter free class, so at no point could there be any peanut butter in her classroom. So she had to bring lunches and that sort of stuff but it's for the safety of the kid, we're there for the kids. And if that's the case, another snack that I use all the time, talk about dairy, is cheese. Get a cheese and cut it up and just have three or four slices of cheese and portion it out again and having those. I'm lucky, I've got a full size refrigerator in my lab that is for food and so being able to have those dairy products and those cold items. The one thing I like also, at the end of the year, is I take grapes and I throw them in the freezer. And so having frozen grapes is a great snack to have and they're cold and you don't chew them up as fast but pretty refreshing during the summer as well.

 

Parker Bane:

Like the old Mitch Hedberg joke, I don't know if any of you have ever heard his stand-up where he said, "I want a frozen banana now or a regular banana later."

 

Alan Green:

Well, Melvin and Amanda, thank you so much for joining us today and for all of the insight that you provided about healthy lifestyles and healthy choices. We appreciate your time today.

 

Amanda Twenter:

Thank you for having us, it was a wonderful conversation and this is possible for anybody, it's not just special people. Anybody in the ag ed world can live that healthy lifestyle.

 

Melvin Phelps:

Yeah, thank you. It's been great having a conversation with you guys and just reiterate what Amanda says, even the littlest things, anything, doing something is better than doing nothing, right? So any little step that you can do to start the process or the journey to make yourself healthier and to be there for your family and your students and your job and your life, is so worth it.

 

Alan Green:

Awesome. Well thanks, Amanda and Melvin, for joining us. Take care.

 

Parker Bane:

What a great conversation about the importance of health and wellness for agriculture educators and our members. Health and wellness is going to look different for every person, so we encourage you to explore your options and find what works best for you, so you can maintain your energy and help you be at your best for yourself, your students and your family back home.

 

Alan Green:

We'd also like to thank our two guests today, Miss Amanda Twenter and Mr. Melvin Phelps, for sharing their personal stories and advice and tips that our members can implement into their own lives as we start this next school year. And like we mentioned before, this is only part one of our two part series about teacher wellness and nutrition. And we'll be back in three weeks, on September 14th, where we'll continue our conversation with Miss Ginny Reddick, a nutrition and wellness coach for individuals, groups and organizations.

 

Parker Bane:

And finally, if you're interested in learning more about additional resources related to health and wellness, make sure to check out our podcast show notes at www.NAAE.org/podcast.

 

Alan Green:

Thank you for joining us for this episode of Connect, a podcast by the National Association of Agricultural Educators. It's always hard to say goodbye but we'll be back with more episodes to help you build even more connections to help you grow as a professional. If you've liked what you've heard, we'd love to have you subscribe, rate or give us a review on iTunes or whatever platform you use, so we can help connect more agricultural educators to our podcast. Until next time.

 

https://www.naae.org/profdevelopment/podcast.cfm 

 

Alan Green:

Welcome to Connect, a podcast by the National Association of Agricultural Educators. No matter how long you've been in the classroom, we as agricultural educators know the power that connections play in bettering ourselves as educators and strengthening our professional. Connect is a podcast by the National Association of Agricultural Educators, and works to educate listeners about NAAE resources, inform them of new and innovative practices, and connect current and future agricultural educators and supporters. I'm your host, Alan Green. We are excited that you're here, so let's get started.

 

Carroll Mercer:

You're going to do something with your time anyway, so why not do something that's going to benefit you for the rest of the year?

 

Karen Van De Walle:

I now have comrades throughout the nation that are allies in this pursuit of teaching agriculture education.

 

Carroll Mercer:

I just really feel like that people are looking at me from a different perspective now.

 

Karen Van De Walle:

But here's the deal. It can actually change your life.

 

Alan Green:

Hey there and welcome back to the second episode of Connect, a podcast by the National Association of Agricultural Educators. In our first episode, we kicked off our podcast series talking about the NAAE My Local Cooperative Instructional Modules, which are resources available to agricultural educators to help implement cooperative education into their classrooms. In this podcast, we'll be discussing another amazing resource that's available to educators across the country; Curriculum for Agricultural Science Education, usually referred to simply as CASE.

 

CASE is an ambitious project started by the National Council for Agricultural Education in 2007 and is managed by NAAE, with the goal of implementing a national curriculum that's both rigorous and relevant for secondary agricultural education. CASE is one of the most powerful tools available for the advancement of agricultural education and the enhancement of student learning in our profession.

 

If you've never heard of CASE before, it's easy to assume it's a type of curriculum package, but it's so much more than that. CASE doesn't sell curriculum. Instead, it conducts high quality professional development. In order for a teacher to use CASE curriculum in their classroom, they must first attend a CASE institute for a specific course. For example, if I was interested in using CASE Food Science and Safety curriculum for my food science class, I would need to complete the Food Science and Safety CASE Institute in order to gain access to the curriculum.

 

Each CASE Institute is anywhere between 50 to 100 hours of rigorous professional development, usually spread across eight to ten days during the summer. You might be wondering to yourself, is it really necessary for agricultural educators to invest that much time to use CASE curriculum? The answer is yes! Teachers that complete a CASE institute complete every lab and many other activities, projects, and problems in order to be better prepared to teach their students. And although 50 to 100 hours might seem like a big commitment during the summertime, many teachers believe that this time investment pays for itself during the school year by having the incredible resources and materials that's provided in CASE curriculum, which we'll talk more about later.

 

Before we welcome our guests, let's put the size and scope of CASE into perspective. Schools have been implementing CASE into their program since 2009, and over the past 11 years, 2,335 teachers from 46 states plus the Virgin Islands are using CASE. These teachers collectively hold a total of 3,891 CASE course certifications. And even furthermore, if we assume that every CASE teacher is teaching an average of 20 students per course, that means that 77,820 agricultural education students were taught through a CASE course in the 2019-2020 school year. Think about that.

 

The best way to tell a story of CASE is to talk with those who write it. So let's meet two CASE teachers who can share the impact that CASE has had in their classroom and how it continues to improve their lives for the better. We're joined today by Miss Karen Van De Walle from Iowa and Mr. Carroll Mercer from Arkansas. Karen and Carroll, thank you so much for joining us today, and Carroll, if you'd like to start off and introduce yourself.

 

Carroll Mercer:

My name's Carroll Mercer, I teach at Fountain Lake High School in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Currently, I teach the AFNR course, the ASP, which is plant science, the natural resources and ag power and technology. I’ll probably will pick up ABF this summer, well I've already picked up ABF this summer, but will start teaching it this fall, and been doing it, for this be 23rd year.

 

Alan Green:

Wonderful.

 

Karen Van De Walle:

Well, I'm Karen Van Van De Walle. I am finishing my 16th year of teaching. I teach at Sumner-Fredericksburg High School in Northeast Iowa. I currently offer the CASE courses AFNR, Plant and Animal, Food Science, Biotechnology, and ARD. I'm also certified in ABF.

 

Alan Green:
Awesome, well, thank you again for joining us. And like we mentioned earlier, we're so excited that our schedules worked to have both of you on the call at the same time; I’ve been told that you two make a dynamite team together. So, starting off, would either of you just quickly explain what CASE is and the role that CASE has played in your professional career?

 

Carroll Mercer:

Go ahead Karen.

 

Karen Van De Walle:

Well, I have been a lead teacher for over five years and I think that the CASE curriculum has changed my life in the classroom, but then also being a lead teacher has changed my professionalism and my ability to work with my peers a little bit better. You know, I know that teaching teachers is different than teaching kids. And so that definitely has strengthened my ability in that method. I do know that I now have comrades throughout the nation; people that have either taught me or that I've taught that our allies in this pursuit of teaching agriculture education.

 

Alan Green:

Karen, you mentioned that you are a CASE Lead Teacher. For our listeners who maybe aren't as familiar with CASE or who have never attended a CASE institute before, can you talk a little bit about what that terminology means? Maybe give your elevator pitch, if you will, about the institutes and what that CASE Lead Teacher title means to you?

 

Karen Van De Walle:

Well, although I'm a high school agriculture instructor, I have taken the opportunity to teach fellow ag teachers a project-based curriculum. So usually every summer I get the chance to work with up to 20 teachers, to lead them through the activities their students will complete in one of the CASE endorsements that are offered. And so I really have an opportunity to have a positive effect on hundreds, if not thousands of students throughout the United States because their teachers come to a curriculum institute, or CASE Institute, to gain the curriculum for that topic. And so a lead teacher is someone who has been selected, usually by their peers, to go on to from taking a CASE course to actually become a lead teacher, to lead those institutes for other teachers.

 

Alan Green:

Wonderful. Carroll, were are going to say something?

 

Carroll Mercer:

Well, I was just going to add there that, you know, Karen's being a little bit modest in what she says, she's been doing this for five years because the first institute that I got to attend, Karen, was the lead teacher there, she and Jessie Lumpkins. And they're the reason that I'm here today. And what she is saying, I can't resonate it loud enough that, you know, we get the opportunity to affect kids from one coast to the other. I have friends and colleagues now from Washington State, New York State, to Florida. I mean, all over the country, we're getting to see people and see the impact that CASE makes on it. And it's been pretty phenomenal for me because at 17 years of teaching, I was ready to quit. And I went to this CASE Institute that Karen was a lead teacher of and by me getting involved with CASE, it kind of rejuvenated me. And I mean I’ve had a ball with the CASE curriculum because it challenges the kids in a way that no other curriculum ever has that I've seen.

 

Alan Green:

And I think that's an awesome point, Carroll. I just wrapped up my second year of teaching and I went to a CASE Institute last summer, and just the difference of the quality of the content and the quality of just the overall package for me was so valuable, to be able to walk into a classroom, know this is the plan that I have, these are the activities, and then seeing just the quality outcome from them, I think CASE is second to none.

 

Carroll Mercer:

Absolutely

 

Alan Green:

I think it's so incredibly valuable for our students, but also our ag teachers to have that valuable resource. So both of you have mentioned it a little bit in what you've said so far. Can you talk a little bit about how you got involved with CASE and whether that was your first institute, or whether it was being introduced to the curriculum? And what was your perception like from the outside looking into the CASE program?

 

Carroll Mercer:

I started this almost 10 years ago and really looking into CASE, whenever it first came out, or right after it first came out and was really interested and intrigued by the way that it was set up, and the administration that I had at the time weren’t sold out on it because it was so new and they weren't real sure if it was going to be something that would be applicable to our kids. But they finally, after four or five years of me just hounded them to let me go to a CASE institute, they finally broke down and let me go. And it has set our school on fire as far as the ag department and how we were perceived by the community, and the rigor that we're putting forth on our kids and making sure that they're really pushing themselves. I've had several kids that have gone on to say that if it hadn't been for the CASE classes, that they never would have made it through college classes. So that tells me that the rigors that they're getting at high school is a lot more than what it used to be, so it's actually helping them even as they go past the high school level.

 

Alan Green

Awesome. And how about you, Karen? How did you start off with CASE?

 

Karen Van De Walle:

Well, I was actually introduced to it very early in the process. In Iowa, we had several teachers who were asked to travel to Indianapolis to develop what they called Kernels of Education. And these were small lessons, and it would take a couple of years, but then these lessons were developed further and they were actually the foundations of CASE as we know it. Iowa’s of the founding states for CASE, kinda to start the support of it. And then years later, I moved out to Oregon and then back to Iowa and I attended my first CASE Institute. It was at the enrichment center in Iowa and it was for AFNR. And by that time, I was six years in and I was stressed. And although I love my job, with moving and a new child, I thought that there had to be something better, something easier out there. And to me, it was either going to be a new job or a new way to teach.

 

And so my first job that I had received long before I had CASE classes, I was hired at half time. And it was great for me then because I would plan an entire day just to present it the second day.

 

Alan Green:

Oh, wow.

 

Karen Van De Walle:

And so it was it was it was difficult. And I was getting tired and, you know, year to year it was inconsistent and who knows if I ever scaffolded anything. And I was exhausted and, you know, stress and pressure increased. And as my contract time increase and commitments increased and I was just kind of getting fed up with it. But as I continued and there I was at year six, wondering what else there could be, CASE was presented to me and it made sense.

 

We all teach a foundation of information that is the same. And so why not structure it in a way that the learning can be consistent, whether you're down the road or in another state, when, as every excellent ag teacher would agree, let's not recreate the wheel.

 

Alan Green:

For sure.

 

Karen Van De Walle:

So that was a foundation that kind of got me started and me involved is just that, that thought of, you know, there has to be something better out here. And so CASE was what was presented to me and it really is the best. And I agree with you second to none.

 

Carroll Mercer:

You know, one of the things that you mentioned, Karen, was the fact that we're all kind of on the same timeline. And whenever my administration finally bought into this, we decided to go to see a couple of schools that were actually implementing the CASE curriculum. And we went to Missouri and we went from the east side to the west side of Missouri. And three days we traveled that, and the CASE classes that we saw were all on the same page, they were doing the same activities from one day to the next within just a couple of days of each other and to standardize an education to that point, that not only is from one side of the state to another, but across state lines as well. I mean, it really got the attention of my administration, understanding that how we are doing something that everyone else is doing. We're teaching in the same way. And this one of the things that really made them buy into it.

 

Alan Green:

And I love both of the points, well the several points that you two have shared right there. Carroll, I think when you were talking specifically like about like your administration and having to win them over, that's so funny, because I, you know, that's where I was more than a year ago. I'm a new ag teacher, I'm at a district that has seen a lot of teacher turnover. CASE is something that they've never heard before. And so trying to get them to buy into this program, which isn't cheap, there is a cost to it, I remember feeling that challenge and then Karen, as well with you. Oh my gosh. I can remember that first year in my AFNR Science class, it would be “Ok, what am I doing next hour for AFNR Science. What am I doing, you know, it was one day at a time, honestly, a lot of times it was one hour at the time. And to be able to have not a boxed curriculum, it's not a boxed curriculum at all. But to be able to have this phenomenal resource where everything is right there, I felt really for the first time in my teaching career that I was able to spend less time focusing on what I was teaching and what resources I needed and what printouts I needed and spend more time focusing on, am I making sure that students are understanding this concept? Am I teaching this correctly? Am I teaching this in a way that that students are truly understanding? I felt that implementing the CASE into my classroom for AFNR Science really allowed me to focus on my students rather than simply focusing on and what I was teaching. Would you two agree with that?

 

Karen Van De Walle:

Wholeheartedly.

 

Carroll Mercer:

Absolutely. And another thing that I really like about it is that there's so many different directions that the students can take this lesson. I mean, you give them the basics, and they understand that. But they can branch off of it and go in so many different directions and learn what they want to. So, you know, it's not like we're forced feeding them that box curriculum that you were talking about. This is not a textbook. This is an opportunity for you to think for yourself and go the direction that you want to learn the things that you want, not necessarily in class, but you can even leave after class and pick up a lot of these things. So, I mean, that's one thing that I truly like about the CASE curriculum.

 

Alan Green:

And I think too, just another quick point, is I think it's fun for students.

 

Carroll Mercer:

Oh ya.

 

Alan Green:

I think when you're looking at box curriculum sets, I think it just gets so dry and so boring. So to be able to do all of the activities in the labs, I think is, you know, really enjoyable for them.

 

Carroll Mercer:

Right.

 

Alan Green:

Now that, you know, you've been involved with CASE and, you know, you're looking back where you started with CASE several years ago, what has changed about your relationship that you have with CASE or how is your perceptions of CASE changed over those years?

 

Carroll Mercer:

They've gotten better. I had this idea that it was a pretty good curriculum whenever I went into it. And, you know, it was something that kind of would change the direction that I taught. But the farther I've gotten into it, I'm now a lead eacher, I get to work with the other teachers around the country, just as Karen does, and to be able to pass that on to them and to know that I'm making a difference not only for my students, but for people across the country, I've really, I’ve drank the Kool-Aid and I'm ready to do for anybody what we can do as far as promoting CASE, you know, trying to keep it going.

 

Karen Van De Walle:

And let me just add onto that for personal, you know, my constant thoughts about, well, what could other jobs be that I could go to; that's stopped. You know, I'm not always looking for another job thinking there's got to be something better out there. And, you know, personally, my ability to spend more time with my family and my hobbies and friends that has, has grown. And so that's something that I never really expected to be able to have quality time because my job took up so much of my life. At work, I spent focused time on preparation, and that includes the extensions and the quality of instruction that I'm putting out to kids, and you kind of talked on that Alan. But just making sure instead of finding out, well, maybe I'm uncomfortable with the topic of water and turgor. Well, now I understand that concept. Now I can understand how best to get it out to my kids. And, you know, the four different personalities, learning styles that I have my classroom, I can now address that instead of wondering and being not quite sure about my content area. Well, now I'm secure in that and I understand the principles. And now I can actually move on and focus on education, which is what we're all in here for.

 

Alan Green

I know that there's a lot of ag teachers out there who are interested in CASE, but, you know, to be honest, it's a big commitment. There's a big cost to it, it’s a big chunk in the summer of your personal time. For those teachers who are interested or maybe on the fence about jumping into a CASE certification, how would you guide them and direct them?

 

Karen Van De Walle:

Well, I think you've hit the nail on the head. It's usually funding or time. And so to address those, you know, when it comes to funding for me, that was kind of my difficult start. I taught at a private school and they never seem to have any extra money. I think that I paid for part of my first CASE Institute out of my own pocket, but it was so worth it. So, seeing the value yourself and getting your admin to buy in or your community is always a good thing.

 

And knowing that it provides a system for that spiraling and scaffolding that your kids are just going to grow, every class that they take throughout the CASE curriculum that you would offer is of significant value. I know when I was planning on my own, I was not a forward thinker to look at how to build on concepts and what to do in the future. I was just trying to survive the day, the week, and the year. And so I know some of you are not in that boat and not concerned about that, but it was for me and most likely there's some others out there that are struggling as well.

 

And for those of you who is biggest concern is time; I agree, it’s seven or eight or nine days from your life, one summer. So is it worth it? And my whole hearted belief is, yes, the time that you invest will be returned and maybe it will be a game that you can watch your kid on the basketball court or the football field. Maybe you'll be able to actually attend those and focus on your own child. I know it's hard to put something like time in to the unknown, but here's the deal. It can actually change your life.

 

Alan Green:

I definitely agree with that, Karen. And and that was, you know, one of my big struggles was dedicating eight, nine days during the summer to attend Intro to AFNR. And it really wasn't until I mean, obviously it was worth it to attend it, but it really didn't hit me really until like in the fall when I would be able to say, oh, I have everything ready for Intro to AFNR tomorrow. Everything, like I don't have to worry about finding some you know, soem crummy PowerPoint online and, you know, hopefully try to fit something in and to be able to have that and be able to, you know, really get all of that time back where it really matters in the school year, where it's so easy for us as teachers to just get really stressed out and really overwhelmed. You are absolutely right there. Carroll, would you have any recommendations for maybe someone who, again, is on that fence about jumping into a CASE certification?

 

Carroll Mercer:

Well, if they're on the fence, you know, like it's been said, funding has always been a big issue. But there are scholarships available, there’s grants available. In some states, Perkins will pay for this. So, I mean, the funding part of it is really not a big issue. Time has been a big issue as far as I can see. But whenever you look at spending those nine days with someone and you develop that network of people across the country, I can call Mark in Kansas right now if I have a question about something. And, you know, we know each other because we've just spent two weeks together, you're going to do something with your time anyway. So why not do something that's going to benefit you for the rest of the year? And to me, that network that we build with other teachers across the country, they're having the same problems that I'm having or the same issues that I'm having. But they can talk me through it and they can help me with it, is you can't put value on something like that. It's just something that, you know, it's there now. I have it in place. I always have those people that I can depend on that I can call I can talk to anyone that I need to. And to me, that was more important than the nine days that I spent. It wasn't just nine days. It was nine days of me building friendships that are going to last forever.

 

Alan Green:

And I think too that, that's such a valuable part of going to a CASE Institute. Obviously, the training and the curriculum and the knowledge that you get, but also those relationships that you build with those other ag teachers.

 

Carroll Mercer:

Yes.

 

Alan Green:

You know, I remember, you know, after the training of the day, you know, getting to talk to them and coming up with further ideas that weren't necessarily related to CASE, but being able to just spend time with people who understand your profession, who understand the same struggles that you have, that time is so valuable. So let's say that someone's all in, you know, they’ve decided that CASE is a really good fit for them, they want to attend an institute, what course would you suggest they attend first?

 

Carroll Mercer:

I'm going to start with AFNR simply because of the scaffolding, I mean, that's where it all starts. And to me, there's so many things that happen in ASP and APT and animal science that build off of what we learned in AFNR that I believe that that's a good place to start. But there are some things that people are not willing to start at the very bottom. They want to get into something and get an idea of what they're going to be doing with classes that they have, like animal science. I would recommend someone start with AFNR, but if you really just have to do something else, go with the one that you like the most. So what it's going to be like and then you can always build that base a little bit later if you need to, or you can continue on and continue to build what you've got started.

 

Karen Van De Walle:

Well talk about well-rounded opinions, cause I think that for some people you should you should take the class stresses you out the most. If you are prepared in plant science, I think you should take ASP because here's the deal, it's going to give you that foundation of knowledge and skill that I think will alleviate that stress you have in the classroom. And so I, I would say take the one that scares you. Take the one that you, ya know, need in your program, but the one that you feel least confident in, that's the one I would take.

 

And of course, my passion always says to start with AFNR, but if you do have to start somewhere else, I would definitely say to go to the one that scares you, because then you have this whole network of people. You know, like when I went to college, I took plant science classes with people that I know and maybe they aren't teaching, maybe they didn't go into education. Maybe they just want to help me out. Who knows? But these all these people in this CASE Institute with me are in the same boat and they all want to have success for their kids and for yours. And so now you have this network of people who are always going to be willing to help you out, and so I would say take the one you're least familiar with.

 

Carroll Mercer:

Good point.

 

Alan Green:

And I think too you, like, you know, it's going to depend on the teacher. It sounds like, you know AFNR I think is a great place to start. But again, if you have something that you're struggling with and one of these CASE courses in another content area can help you feel more successful, you know, start where works best for you. What are some of the challenges that you've had to overcome as far as implementing CASE into your program? I know I've had quite a few and I'll share mine as well. But I'm just wondering for both of you who have, you know, been through CASE and have used it for several years, what are some of those challenges that you've had to overcome?

 

Carroll Mercer:

Expense? It's expensive to get it started, but there are a lot of startup grants that you can get. There are a lot of companies out there that'll help you fund. One thing that I was told when I first started was that you buy equipment and you're going to spend all your money on equipment. But I got to looking at the different programs that we have in our school, and they were using LabQuests just like I was. So we were able to borrow those from those different departments until I got mine. So, you know, working with other teachers on the district or in the district is always a good place to start whenever you start looking at expenses

 

Karen Van De Walle:

I would agree the costs are sometimes seem as a seems like a big obstacle. But here's the deal, I agree. You know, sometimes you don't know what your science department has and sometimes they have just what you need. And so asking there, I know that we have had several different key people in the community that that want to see these concepts taught. And so they are willing to provide information. I know like we have a lot of swine facilities around here and one of our biggest producers actually collects his own semen. And so I don't have to buy semen online, I can just ask him. He'll give me doses at different quality levels. And so just, you know, your community is a resource as well.

 

Alan Green:

And those are things that, you know, I struggled with, too, especially my science department didn't have a lot of the resources that I needed. And so kind of asking for those, that money there at the end of the budget year and crossing your fingers. But I also, I think to you, you know, that first year of implementing it is sometimes getting creative and having to make, finding solutions to things that can easily be supplemented in and out. One thing I know I had to do is I had to say, Ok, I'm going to invest in the LabQuests, but I can't necessarily afford some of the higher end sensors yet. How can I modify my curriculum? How can I make sure that we're understanding that concept even though we're not one hundred percent fully stocked yet as far as the equipment?

 

Carroll Mercer:

And just starting out to you have to realize you don't have to have every piece of equipment, as long as you have like one or two of each one, so the students can get around and they can see how it works. You don't have to have one for each student.

 

Alan Green:

Absolutely.

 

Carroll Mercer:

A lot of times on the buyers guides that CASE has you know, it's telling you is for a class of 20 and you might need 10 LabQuests. Well, in a perfect world, 10 LabQuests would be great and that way you could put two kids with a lab quest. But if you had two LabQuests that 10 kids each could see or you could projected on the smart board or whatever that you have in your classrooms, you know, that's just as beneficial too. So you don't have to have everything at one time. It could be a couple of years before you get all of your equipment if you needed to.

 

Alan Green:

And another thing I just thought of too, is Corteva Agriscience does a CASE Implementation Grant every year where teachers can apply for up to $5000, whether they want to attend an institute or buy equipment for their classroom, so we'll make sure that we include a link to that in our show notes. But again, there's a lot of grants out there, a lot of resources, getting creative, collaborating with the science department. I think it's important that a teacher who wants to attend CASE never looks at the cost of it as a barrier or the cost of it, you know, preventing them from attending the CASE Institute, because I think it's just so powerful, and I think that there's ways to get the supplies and the equipment that they need, especially when, you know, the dollars aren't simply there to go spend them.

 

Let's talk a little bit about attending a CASE institute for someone who, again, has never attended an institute before. What should they expect while they're at that institute?

 

Carroll Mercer:

A lot of work. For me, it was like I say, I had been teaching for 17 years whenever I went to my first institute in Lake Charles, Louisiana. And I didn't know what to expect whenever I walked in the door. But we started at eight o'clock in the morning and most days we finished at five, and we work from the time we got there until we got finished. I mean, it was pretty intense, but at the same time, it's not like you're sitting in class all day, it's always an activity that we're doing. You're up, you're around, you're doing things. You're thinking hard, you're working hard. But it's not like work. It's just, it's a good time. But you're you're getting a lot of information and you understand it better what you're going to be teaching your kids. One thing that I had happen to me at an institute that I did is we were supposed to write all of our notes and our non-dominant hand. Like I'm right handed, I had to write my notes left handed so that I would understand what my kids were going to be going through as they were learning this. And that probably made as much of an impact on me as anything because I understood for the kids or whenever they were sitting in that seat. It's tough. It's hard. You're away from home. You don't get to see, you know, your family. But whenever it's all said and done, looking back on it, I wouldn't trade a single institute that I've been to yet for what I've done. Loved it.

 

Karen Van De Walle:

Usually there's camaraderie. You know, you're working hard with, you know, 19 other people usually, and you all have the same goal of learning this curriculum. You know, the thought is, is that you're going to go through and at least discuss, if not do, each of the activities that your kids will be asked to do for the next school year. And so it is rigorous. I'll agree. You know, it's a lot of mental work. Also, usually on weekends there is some sort of recreation. You know, we went to the Gulf when we were down in Lake Charles. Usually you go and see the different area that you are in, that's one of the benefits with actually traveling, is you get to go to a new area. That's kind of exciting.

Carroll Mercer:

We played with alligators one day.

 

Karen Van De Walle:

Yeah, that's right. So you get a little local flare ya know?

 

Alan Green:

I went to North Carolina for mine. We weren't playing with alligators, but it was definitely, you know, cool for, you know, as teachers to be able to go somewhere else. You know, it wasn't a training where, you know, you're with the same group of teachers from the same state. You're with, you know, different people from all over. And Karen, you mentioned a little bit, I think it's really powerful for teachers to go through all of those activities, all of those labs.

 

I cannot tell you how many times in my Zoology class where I was using a box curriculum, where I had never seen it before, and I was very much so winging it. And a student asked me a question about it. And I was like, ummmmmmm,  so instead, being able to, you know, on the flip end of that, have that training, that prior knowledge, and also to be able to have your binder from your institute and say, yeah, this is how we did it, or I took pictures of the lab, this is how we should set it up. I think that just makes you look so much more polished for your students. And it just I think it makes teachers more confident. I really do. I think it just really helps. Like, it helps me feel like I know what I'm doing. I'm not like a lost second year teacher anymore. I am put together. I have my complete show together. So I think that that's a really important part too. Any other things that teachers should be like expecting before going to a CASE Institute that you'd like to share?

 

Carroll Mercer:

You made a really good point in that you took a lot of notes in your notebook. I think that that's one thing that I didn't realize when I went to the first institute was how important that was going to be to me from day one and taking those notes, because whenever you come back, you're going to be looking at day one in August, but you're going to be looking at what you do it on day nine in May of that year, so there's a lot of time in between each of those activities that you have to try to remember that. So taking good notes is something that anyone that's getting started with this needs to understand. You've got to do that.

 

Alan Green:

I think too another point is, is I think the lead teachers at the institute do a really good job of having conversations about the activities and the projects from a student perspective and a teacher perspective. I know my CASE lead teacher, Tricia Stoddard, she would say how its students feel about this activity or where do you see students struggling? And then on the flip side of how it can you as a teacher, facilitate this to make sure that students understand it?  It's not just going through the activities constantly, but there's that moment for reflection of saying, okay, let's talk through this, let's talk through the activity that we just did. How can you make sure that it's powerful when you go back to your classroom?

 

And one thing you know, we've already mentioned it. That's really cool about CASE is that it's so much more than just a boxed curriculum or a professional development workshop that that maybe we've been to that we rarely ever use again. And it's really allowing teachers across the country to really take ownership for their personal careers and to develop them even further as a professional. Would you two mind sharing the role that CASE has played in your professional careers?

 

Carroll Mercer:

Go ahead, Karen.

 

Karen Van De Walle:

I was hoping you'd go first. Well, I do have to say I am a quiet, contemplative person. I'm not really one that likes to speak up or to speak my voice. I like to kind of chew on things before I make an opinion or speak on something. And I think that professionally, what CASE has done has allowed me to develop that sense of security, to be able to voice my opinion and to be able to work for the greater good. And so I think that that's something that's helped me professionally do. I know that I am a valued aspect of ag education, and so I think that that value has been built through taking CASE courses, lead teaching CASE courses, and just working with my peers who have made me a better teacher because of their suggestions and their advice. Definitely has got me out of my shell, let me branched out from what we all know is the comfort zone or the secure zone.

 

Carroll Mercer:

I think for me, the one thing that probably stands out the most is the way people perceive ag education now and how I teach. Like I said, I was 17 years in and I was ready to quit and go sell insurance or do something different whenever I started the CASE. But whenever I came back, the confidence that I have in what I'm teaching and I've always considered ag is the application to the core courses. So whatever they learn in their math and English and science classes, I'm going to teach them how to apply that and the way they're learning into, and they being my students, the way they're learning to apply those that knowledge that they have in those other classes, whenever they bring it across the parking lot to the ag building, it's really brought a new light in everyone else's eyes about the importance of ag in my district and in my area. We used to just be the that's the ag class and there's no reason why no one can pass and ag class. And, you know, it just was what it was. But now I think people are starting to really get a new image in their mind of what ag really is about; the science, the math, the history in it, and how important it is with what is being taught in the other classes. I just really feel like that people are looking at me from a different perspective now, not necessarily with more respect, but more respect toward the ag program.

 

Alan Green:

Yeah, absolutely. And that's something I feel too, is that as a second year teachers, I just feel like there's so much more belief in the program and belief in those courses, too. And so our last question, and this one could be a while, would you two mind sharing, like your best story or your best experiences from your time in CASE? It could be a specific lesson or a moment that you had with your students, or it could be something that maybe happened at a CASE Institute that you'd like to share with our listeners.

 

Karen Van De Walle:

Well, I'm quite possibly the worst person to ask this because I have no good memory like bank of stuff. I know that there has been unlimited amount of great things that have happened. I know that one of my favorites happens to be with Mr. Mercer, and that's different reading strategies, learning different reading strategies. And he has a great one where he can read a passage as a preacher, and if any of you ever get the opportunity to hear him do that, I would highly recommend it.

 

Carroll Mercer:

Amen sister!

 

Karen Van De Walle:

I would definitely just say light bulb moment for kids. I know in my own classroom I have seen, I see kids daily just want,  they want, they have a desire to do more and to learn more. And so that's just something that resonates with me about CASE curriculum is just kids are like, oh, well, is this why this happens? And I'm like, yeah, that's awesome that you're making those connections. And so for me, there's so many just day to day CASE Institute to CASE Institute for me to mention. But those are ones that I would definitely come to mind easy, I guess.

 

Carroll Mercer:

I guess for me and I've had, I'm like Karen, and I've had so many good memories that it's hard to pick out one. But I really enjoy the aha moment. And a couple of years ago I had a young girl that she wanted to be a veterinarian and has been since the fifth grade. I've known her, you know, worked with her all that time, and she was one of those kids that I really struggled with being able to push, continue to push in the right direction and make her really feel like and whatever she started taking CASE courses, I mean, she just she just ate it up. But she came in one day and she wanted to do an ag science project, growing strawberries hydroponically. And she was in the plant science class and she got everything set up.

 

We bought plants and she's got everything going. And she came in one morning after a weekend, so they'd sit for a couple of days. Everything was working fine when she left, but all of her plants were dead and she couldn't figure out what the world was wrong with it. But then she started falling back on what we had learned and she started testing our nutrient solution. And she started looking at things and found out that her nutrient solution was off bad.

 

And it looked like someone had just, you know, burst her bubble with a pen or something. She just deflated right there and almost started crying on me and I felt bad. But then the next breath, she started trying to figure out what was wrong and she ended up figuring out what was wrong. And by the end of the year, we were eating strawberries, and to see that moment whenever she was so deflated and ready to quit, but know that she has the information that she's got to have in order to fix the problem and use that information without any prompts, she just she took it on herself, she made sure that it happened. And like I say, we eat strawberries at the end of the year. And that was that was probably the most memorable thing for me so far. And to see a kid do that at the level she was at, it was just, I'm getting chill bumps. I'm telling you, I'm getting to chill bumps right now just thinking about it. But it was it was wonderful to sit there and watch her.

 

Karen Van De Walle:

That's awesome. Kudos to her and to you.

 

Carroll Mercer:

And she is in vet school right now, by the way.

 

Alan Green:

Awesome, well, thank you so much, Carroll and Karen, for joining us today and for being such a strong advocate for NAAE and in CASE curriculum. Thank you again. Take care.

 

Karen Van De Walle:

Thank you.

 

Carroll Mercer:

Thank you for the opportunity. Good to hear from you, Karen.

 

Karen Van De Walle:

Good to hear from you, too.

 

Alan Green:

So there you have it, that's the case and CASE, and as we continue to navigate these uncertain times together, NAAE is working to increase their capacity for online professional development in order to continue to serve NAAE members and agricultural educators in the most fitting way possible. If you're interested in learning more about Curriculum for Agricultural Science Education, which is managed by the National Association of Agricultural Educators, we encourage you to visit the CASE website www.case4learning.org.

 

We'll also provide links to some of the resources we discussed in today's episode, along with other information that you may find useful when it comes to implementing CASE in your program. Another big thank you to our two guests, Ms. Karen Van De Walle and Mr. Carroll  Mercer, for joining us today, along with the 2,335 other CASE certified teachers who are making a difference every day as they implement CASE into their classrooms.

 

Thank you for joining us for this episode of Connect, a podcast by the National Association of Agricultural Educators. It's always hard to say goodbye, but we'll be back with more episodes to help you build even more connections to help you grow as a professional. If you like what you heard. We'd love to have you subscribe, rate or give us a review on iTunes or whatever platform you use, so we can help connect more agricultural educators to our podcast. Until next time!

https://www.naae.org/profdevelopment/podcast.cfm

 

Alan Green:

Welcome to Connect, a podcast by the National Association of Agricultural Educators. No matter how long you’ve been in the classroom, we as agricultural educators know the power that connections play in bettering ourselves as educators and strengthening our profession. Connect is a podcast by the National Association of Agriculture Educators and works to educate listeners about NAAE resources, inform them of new and innovative practices, and connect current and future agricultural educators and supporters. I'm your host, Alan Green - we are excited that you're here, so let's get started.

 

Hey there, welcome to the very first episode of Connect, which is a podcast that's produced by the National Association of Agriculture Educators. We are so excited to be launching this podcast series specifically for agricultural educators across the United States. This episode is made possible by the CHS Foundation, which is the charitable giving arm of CHS, Inc. In today's podcast, we'll be talking about the new NAAE My Local Cooperative Instructional Modules and learning more about the CHS Foundation and the resources available to you as agriculture educators. Now, before we get started, let's talk a little bit about one end of NAAE’s newest initiatives, which is called My Local Cooperative. My Local Cooperative is an initiative of the National Association of Agriculture Educators with funding support from the CHS Foundation as a special project of the National FFA Foundation. The initiative works to educate the next generation of leaders and entrepreneurs about the benefits and opportunities of agricultural cooperatives.

 

Now, you might have never really thought about including cooperatives into your curriculum before, and if you have, there's a good chance that you weren't 100 percent sure where to start. Since its inception in 2018, NAAE has been working with talented curriculum writers and teachers to develop the My Local Cooperative Instructional Modules, which are free resources available to you as educators to teach about cooperatives in your classroom. Our first guest on today's episode is Mr. Wes Crawford, who is an agricultural educator at Sutherland High School in Oregon. Wes played a critical role in the development process of these modules and also facilitates workshops at National FFA Convention and NAAE Convention, introducing other agricultural educators to the modules. Wes, thanks for joining us!

 

Wes Crawford:

Good morning. How are you?

 

Alan Green:

Good. How are you?

 

Wes Crawford:

I'm well. We're just, you know, making it through this crazy spring that we're all dealing with. That's fine. And get ready for summer and moved on the next steps

 

Alan Green:

For sure. And thank you again for joining us. We talked a little bit about what the NAAE My Local Cooperative is and why NAAE launched the initiative. Wes can you talk specifically about what the My Local Cooperative Instructional Modules are?

 

Wes Crawford:

Absolutely. So the My Local Cooperative Instructional Modules are intended for teachers as well

as extension agents and others that are engaged in agricultural education, whether it's through school or outside of other programs as well. In order to help students and others understand about cooperatives, a lot of people might have heard that word, but they don't really know what it means or how it sits in our lives and don't realize just how often we are. We interact with cooperatives. And so these modules are instructional pieces that provide teachers, instructors, and presenters with the tools to help people understand what is an important part of agriculture. And it affects one in every three Americans every day.

 

Alan Green:

Awesome. Thank you. And, you know, one thing I think is important about why we have this is is a lot of people, when you think about the basics of agricultural education, you think about that, you know, the core things that we as ag teachers teach cooperatives don't come up very often. We don't necessarily always think about them. But you're right. They play a critical role in our economy, in our communities and in so many people are impacted by cooperatives that really it is an important part. We want our young people to understand the cooperative business model, to understand the career opportunities as well. My Local Cooperative consists of three modules. Each of those modules provides all of the information, all the tasks, the assessments. Can you talk a little bit about those three modules, what they include, maybe some of the topics that they brush up on?

 

Wes Crawford:  

Absolutely. So the first module, it's all about introducing a topic that, again, a lot of people aren't familiar with and probably couldn't differentiate what is the difference between a cooperative versus a corporation or any other business that they might interact with. And so the first step is to help understand what that means and what those components that make a cooperative unique. And like you say, they're an important part of the industry as well as that, especially in times of difficulty and perhaps uncertainty. They are a business model that can help operations and agricultural businesses and other businesses as well survive and make it through, as well as create opportunities that maybe they wouldn't have otherwise. And so it's just understanding what those might be. And what they do is up first module there. The second module then moves on to the application component of where does this fit? What does this look like? How can we start to do to learn with this? And then the third one takes it to a point where students actually go so far as to design, develop and launch their own cooperative, in an accessible but yet meaningful experience that they could do there at their school.

 

Alan Green:

As I was reading through the third one, I thought it reminded me of when I was in high school and our economics class in and we had to create a business or sell a product. But, you know, looking through the Instructional Modules, it's so applicable, like students are electing leaders, they're brainstorming, they're doing some financial planning. All of those are things that are so critical for our young people to understand and to have a grasp on it. I think that the modules do such a fantastic job of putting it into such an applicable lesson for our students. So we talked a little bit about the modules. Why were they developed in the first place? Can you brush up on that a little bit?

 

Wes Crawford:

For sure. Just like you mentioned earlier, when we talk about agricultural education and maybe some things that we focus on and some things that perhaps aren't always at the forefront, cooperatives is one of those. It's easy to get so busy with so many other things that that we have good resources for. Did the resources exist, to, for teachers to successfully teach cooperatives? And what we've seen, too, would presenting about this and sharing this with other teachers at the National FFA Convention, the National [Association] Agricultural Educators Convention, is that a lot of people aren't including that because they will have a lot of experience with it. They know what that is and they know how it fits, but they don't necessarily know how to teach that. And so giving teachers those tools and resources more than just a hundred page PDF of what cooperatives are, but actually crafting that and having it designed and the way to make it easily applicable to the classroom is really the goal of the modules and what they're put together for. And so that we can increase literacy about the ag industry and then specifically about cooperatives, as well as to help understand the job opportunities that come through cooperatives and why perhaps working in a job through a cooperative which that job might exist other places, but maybe there's some additional benefits, additional value, and values that come with working for a cooperative.

 

Alan Green:

For sure, and I'd like to come back on that good resource note that you added in there, because I think that that's such a critical part as for why ag teacher should include this in their lesson plans, where can teachers find My Local Cooperative modules?

 

Wes Crawford:

The modules can be found online through the NAAE website, www.naae.org, as well as going directly to to MyLocalCooperative.org.

 

Alan Green:

Perfect. And we'll also include a link to those modules in the show notes for this episode as well. Wes can you talk a little bit about how teachers can use the modules? You know, one thing is they're not necessarily an entire semester, entire course, but they are in a provide some really deep content. Where can teachers fit those in. nd how might a teacher use those in their curriculum?

                     

Wes Crawford:

There's some really flexible ways to do this. And so the modules being scaffolded the way they are, you could start with the beginning and perhaps it's just module one and maybe module two you use or maybe that's used with younger students, or you could be using all three with perhaps, older students, it kind of depends on your situation. But that's also one of the benefits of it, is that we're talking about a few days instruction here that really fits well into a whole range of courses and talking with teachers to and brainstorming, where can we use this?

 

Obviously, an ag business class or and ag leadership class makes a lot of sense. But there's also, depending on your region and the agriculture there, absolutely it could it be fitting into plant science, animal science or other general ag classes because of the fact that so many cooperatives that are involved in those different segments of the industry and so when it comes that this has flexibility to be as bigger, is more specific and focused as teachers want to use it, as well as be able to plug into a lot different areas that they're already teaching.

 

 

Alan Green:

Absolutely, and we're talking about the plant science and the animal science classes, I think it's important for students to understand not just that the science behind it and the basic information that we teach, but also understand how does it connect to the business level? How does it look like in terms of our local economy? That's a great point. West, one of the big things that agriculture teachers are in need of right now are resources is that can be transferred online, especially obviously, you know as  we're wrapping up this school year. But, you know, as we're looking at next year, some schools are looking at how do we provide a completely online format or a blended model. In your opinion, do you think that these materials transfer well online? How might you guide a teacher to adapt these modules to an online format?

 

Wes Crawford:

Obviously, these modules were designed to be taught in person with the classroom teacher and students to be able to do that. With that said, a lot of the content does have the potential and the ability to easily transfer online. I think that if we were totally online, there's some core content there that's put together that isn't just “sit and get” lecture heavy, but has the components there and the resources and links for our students to do some exploration on their own. And so with some pretty easy modification, the links already set up, the resources already set up, a teacher could move that to an online format. If they're doing a blended model, which for people that haven't heard that, that's where students are maybe there every other day and on their off day they’re at home with the intention of trying to decrease the number of students in the building at a time for distancing, depending on your situation where you’re at.

 

I think that also becomes actually pretty easy because some of those pieces can be done at home on their own. If students have access to resources and the ability to do that, of course, that would be the key thing. They would need to have probably internet access. I would say to access this as distance model, but I know a lot of students and school districts that work hard to do that. But then also because of the fact you're meeting some that time, the face to face in the interaction components, which are so important to the way some of this is taught, as well as just the concept of a cooperative and working with others makes it really doable. And even if you were a total distance, there's ways to, you know, facilitate student interaction at a distance. And that's real world right now is conducting businesses and coordinating in an online or in a virtual format. So we're really just demonstrating another way that they can, you know, people are overcoming these challenges and still getting the job done where it's needed. And doing that. So I think both are definitely doable. It just takes a little bit work on the teacher's part, but the content is  already there. It's just a matter of deciding, OK, how am I going to approach this now where they used to collaborate and how can I set that up? Either in that blending model or that total online that you describe there.

 

I would say probably the third module, you could still be doing something there where they design their own cooperative. That's probably the one that also could be farther down the road as we get through this. So when we get to a spot where we're able to reengage and maybe with some changes, and hopefully a more traditional format, then that could still absolutely be reached with a module where they do design their own and implement their own cooperative.

 

Alan Green:

Fantastic. These are what I would classify as a really good resource. I know as a first year teacher, I entered the classroom as an alternately certified teacher. One thing that was very challenging was finding resources that were more or less complete, that had everything in one package, in one spot. It gets very difficult when you're trying to, like, plug and play different things. Can you talk a little bit about the structure of the modules and what's all included if the teacher goes and downloads them?

 

Wes Crawford:

Yes, I totally agree that they did a great job putting these together with the total package in mind, that it's easily accessible to the teacher and easily to implement. I think that not only just for that first year teacher, which is great, who's developing that content and figure out where they want to put things, and nothing is more frustrating those first couple of years and just, you know, downloading a PowerPoint and calling out a lesson plan, that's really not it. Or you start finding stuff for sure. Here's a lesson plan. Here’s an outline and the outline say things like come up with an activity where they apply this. Will, thanks a lot. That's what I was looking for, as you live in survived by Google.

 

But here you have one that is ready to go. So the teacher notes are there on what to prepare for. And the pacing guide, as well as the PowerPoint visuals, which are all very short that you would utilize. And then the handouts for students, the guides for students, the materials that you would need are all listed there. And this one is very low intensive in terms of materials. Very easy to implement. Not talking about a lot of lab equipment or anything here. It's more about the content and then the creativity and the application that your students do. So I think that's great. I think also for the experience teacher and you know, it didn't take long before you really fill up your teaching calendar and you know, you know, the general things you want to do from August, September all the way through June.

 

But we also know that we kind of get complacent sometimes. We have these pieces that we've got in there. We put it in there and said, OK, that's good enough for now. But this is a good opportunity to upgrade that and to kick it up a notch and to have a resource that's there ready to go and to just improve what we're doing, because I don't have a lot of extra space in my teaching timeline. It's not like I was looking for something to do for a week or two.

 

But if I can improve what I'm doing and it gets easier on me as well, it's better for my students. And hey, that's a great plan. So that's where these modules are easy to use. And it definitely should be considered that way.

 

Alan Green:

Absolutely. And I would say, too, that for anyone who's listening, if you've ever been to a CASE institute or you're using CASE in your classroom, the modules follow very similar setup. The material list is there. Everything's provided. It is as complete as you can get. Wes, my last question for you today is, why do you think agriculture teachers should be including these modules in their classroom?

 

Wes Crawford:

We have available to us a great resource that was put together by talented writers as well as ag teachers teachers, that I was not one of those put together, so not to sell goes blown, you know, blown up my own reputation here. I've just been involved with being able to utilize it as well as help teachers understand it. But we have great industry support in putting this together, as well as great teachers that have helped write it. And that makes it usable.

 

It makes it relevant for sure, with what's going on in our industry. The opportunities for students and the focus on not just what cooperatives are, but the careers available in cooperatives is another great way to implement this into what we're doing and make it applicable and relevant to your students are looking to do in their near future. And so with those things in mind, it just makes it really easy to add this to what we're doing top grade, what we're doing in the classroom, and just improve the content  we're delivering to students, that also is going to help them with whatever it is they plan to do as they move forward. And the biggest thing we could do for students is just expand their horizons and help them understand the possibilities that are out there. And that's why agriculture education's so important in this day and age to help students recognize and realize just how many different things they can engage with and be part of as they move forward. They may maybe didn't know about. And this is a great example of that.

 

Alan Green:

Well Wes, thank you so much for joining us today for this podcast. Thank you for everything that you're doing for NAAE and for the work that you put in to make the My Local Cooperative Instructional Modules a reality.

 

Wes Crawford:

Thanks, Alan. Appreciate it.

 

Alan Green

Now that we've talked about My Local Cooperative and the Instructional Modules that are available for you to use in your classroom, we'd like to spend more time talking about our sponsor partner who's made My Local Cooperative possible, which is this CHS Foundation. Our next speaker is Ms. Nanci Lilja, who serves as the president for the CHS Foundation. Nanci, thank you so much for joining us today.

 

Nanci Lilja:

I'm happy to be here. Thanks for having me.

 

Alan Green:

And of course, as we mentioned before, Nanci is the president of the CHS Foundation, which is the charitable giving arm for CHS Inc. Nanci, for our listeners who may be aren’t familiar with or maybe who have never even heard of CHS or the CHS Foundation. Can you tell us a little bit more about the two of them and explain the difference between those two?

 

Nanci Lilja:

Yeah, absolutely. CHS, Inc. is actually the largest farmer owned cooperative in the United States supplying farmers and ranchers around the world with the inputs and outputs they need to be successful in their farming operations. The CHS Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization, a charitable organization, and it's funded exclusively by charitable gifts from CHS, so our roots at the foundation are clearly, very deeply invested in agriculture.

 

Alan Green:

Wonderful. Can you talk a little bit about the mission of this CHS Foundation and what it does for the agriculture industry?

 

Nanci Lilja:

Of course. Well, given our roots in agriculture, we have a mission that really is all around making a lasting and a measurable impact on rural America and on the ag industry as a whole. And we do that by investing in programs that we believe are going to develop ag leaders for lifelong success in this industry. You've probably seen there was an employment outlook that was published by Purdue University within the last year or two, and that reported that the USDA is predicting that about 58,000 jobs involving food, and ag, and renewable resources are going to be open in the United States annually, but with only 35,000 qualified grads to fill those roles. So that's just about 60 percent of the need. So, we know that our mission to develop future ag leaders is really quite relevant and that there's just a clear need for a stronger pipeline of talent going into agriculture.

 

We believe we're working to help fill that pipeline by kind of focusing our work in four areas, and I'll tell you a little bit about each one of those. So, the first area is around cooperative education, where we're essentially just working to really advance the cooperative system by promoting education that is rigorous, that’s relevant, and that's engaging to this younger generation or this new generation that we're looking to develop.

 

And, of course, our work with National Association of Ag Educators fits pretty squarely within that focus. We're also working with a network of colleges and universities to support students who've already chosen that career in agriculture. And we're working to provide them with support in curriculum, support in programs. We provide many grants. We provide scholarships. I'm actually pretty excited to note that just this last week we announced that the foundation is going to make a $5000 contribution to the student emergency funds at each one of our 25 colleges and universities. And that's really to kind of extend the safety net for those students and assist them with some of the challenges caused by COVID19 and whether that's through loss of income or financial support, whether it's lack of resources to be able to engage remotely, just anything we can do to help keep those students in school and engaged. And I think that action probably demonstrates quite clearly are our very strong support of students in very difficult circumstances.

 

A third area focus area for us is around growing youth leadership programs and those programs that are really engaging students, developing those soft skills and helping prepare them to be really meaningful contributors in the ag industry. And so that includes support of a whole host of organizations like FFA and National 4H, Ag Future of America, Ag in the Classroom and a variety of others. And then finally, we're working to accelerate the potential for careers in agriculture. And we're doing that primarily with the National Teach Ag Organization. And we know they're out there recruiting and retaining teachers at that high school level. And we know those are the teachers that are going to inspire and prepare students for success in the ag industry. So that's an overview of what our overall mission is and the areas we focus on in attempting to accomplish that mission.

 

Alan Green:

And I love that statement, developing future ag leaders, because as I think of what we do as agricultural educators and what the CHS Foundation is, ya know, they overlap there. They work together and it really provides that base for such a natural partnership. CHS Foundation has played such a critical role and has just been such a phenomenal partner for the National Association of Agricultural Educators to work with for many years on. The CHS Foundation has been the title sponsor partner for the NAAE National Teach Ag Campaign. They provide scholarships for teachers to attend CASE institute trainings and so many more opportunities. In 2018, the CHS Foundation provided funding for NAAE to launch the My Local Cooperative initiative, providing school based agriculture educators with resources to teach about agriculture cooperatives. Nanci, can you talk a little bit about why the CHS Foundation made the decision to provide the investment of cooperative education with NAAE?

 

Nanci Lilja:

Yeah, absolutely. I think going back to our roots, we just believe very strongly in that cooperative business model, in the cooperative principles that support that model and just the relevance of that model within the ag industry. We also think that educating young leaders around that cooperative model is really the key to maintaining the strength of that cooperative system just far into the future. As you mentioned, we provided that funding to end the NAAE in 2018 to really take some of those materials I talked about earlier that are out there and that exist around cooperative education, but are probably, for the most part in print form, quite dated, and just not particularly engaging or relevant to today's youth who often want to learn in a very different way.

 

So our idea was to invest in and just some newer and some more innovative approaches to coop ed, so we really just set out to invest in newer and more innovative approaches to cooperative education that incorporate digital and other relevant technologies, and that can provide for that kind of hands on and more visual learning that we hope is at least a bit more attractive and engaging to today's youth.

 

Alan Green:

Awesome. That's wonderful. One thing that we discussed with Wes who is on the podcast right before this interview is that when we're talking about agriculture cooperatives, they play such a critical role in our economy and our local communities. And quite frankly, a lot of people who maybe are disconnected from agriculture or students or other people, they don't necessarily understand that. They don't realize how critical they are to our industry. Why do you think it's important for students to learn about agriculture cooperatives?

 

Nanci Lilja:

Well, I think, first of all, the cooperative business model is quite unique, especially as you compare it to a much more common business model like the corporation or the partnership or the limited liability company that are much more familiar to people. We also know that the coop business model is very rarely included in the curriculum at the K through 12 or even at the undergrad level. So first, we believe there's just an education gap that needs to be addressed.

 

And again, we see agriculture and cooperatives as being extremely well tied together. There's a great partnership there in advancing farmers and ranchers and and their value to feeding the world, their value to their communities, their value to their local co-ops, in addition to larger co-ops at the regional level. There's just a great partnership there and the model works very, very well. And so we need students to understand that and to recognize it and to differentiate it, co-op model from other business forms and why it's different and how it's different and how that impacts agriculture.

 

Alan Green:

Nanci, the next question that I have for you is somewhat twofold. And you've talked a little bit about this, I think, in your first answer. First, does the CHS Foundation had any type of resources or programs that might be of interest for agricultural educators to explore or take advantage of?

 

Nanci Lilja:

Yeah, I think there's a number of programs out there, a couple come to mind. Certainly the My Local Coop program that and NAAE has developed for us. I mean, that's just a fabulous program that includes a website that hosts a variety of cooperative education materials. But more importantly, it has three complete curriculum modules that are available to educators across the country at no charge. And they focus on the co-op principles, the basics of that co-op business model and really the critical role that co-ops play in agriculture, which I think are all just critically important points to students and that educators can bring to them.

 

Another program that comes to mind is the AgCultures program that we developed in conjunction with the University of Minnesota that provides an opportunity for students to essentially take virtual field trips around the United States as well as in South America and Europe, to view agriculture from a different perspective and similar to the my local co-op platform, AgCultures also provides complete standard based curriculums to correspond with those field trips. So those are probably two that come quickly to mind, and there's probably others as well.

 

Alan Green:

We'll make sure to provide a link to both of those resources in the show notes for this episode. And the second part. What are some of those resources that the CHS Foundation has that high school students or college students might want to explore as well?

 

Nanci Lilja:

That's a great question, Alan. And I think there's probably a lot of resources out there for high school and college students, and I'm sure I won't think of them all. But a couple that come to mind are, as I mentioned earlier, we have partnerships with about 25 colleges and universities. And through those partnerships, we are providing scholarships and mini grants annually to students. And so if you go out to our website, you can see all of the colleges and universities that are in our program. And I would encourage students certainly to apply for scholarship dollars if they are attending one of those programs.

 

We also sponsor rural youth leadership development programs in many states. I think they're often referred to as LEAD programs, we host or participate in the New Century Farmer program, as well as a couple of spinoff programs from that that are more targeted to specific career paths. So those are the few of the opportunities that I would direct students to.

 

Alan Green

Thanks for sharing those resources and I know that our listeners and our teachers will find those extremely valuable. And as we're wrapping up our conversation about cooperative education and the CHS Foundation, my last question for you is, is what do you want agricultural educators and NAAE members to know about this CHS Foundation and their investment in agricultural educators?

 

Nanci Lilja:

Well, I think a couple things. First, we know that every day there is a decreasing percentage of our population that has a direct connection to the farm. So teachers are more and more becoming that connection to agriculture that students really do need. We also know the ag industry needs students that are learning those fundamentals of agriculture through hands-on, stem-based education. And so in order to meet that demand, we need we need well-rounded educators that can share those messages and foster that interest.

 

I think, secondly, we just plain believe in agriculture. And we also understand very clearly that it is those talented educators and the students they inspire who are going to lead this industry into the future.

 

We recognize the passion that ag educators bring to their roles and their ability to inspire students with that passion. So we know educators are playing just a really vital role in influencing the next generation of ag leaders. And so we want to support that role in a very strong and meaningful way.

Alan Green:

Well, Nanci, thank you so much for joining us. And thank you for everything that you do and that your team does and the CHS Foundation does to support agricultural educators, cooperatives and the agriculture industry as well. Take care, Nanci.

 

Nanci Lilja:

Thank you very much. I appreciate the time.

 

 

 

If you're interested in learning more about My Local Cooperative, the instructional modules we discussed earlier, or about the CHS Foundation resources that Nanci just shared with us, we encourage you to check out our episodes show notes which can be found at www.naae.org/podcast. We'll be publishing a set of show notes that provides links and additional resources to the topics we discussed in each episode on our website. You can also learn more about the NAAE My Local Cooperative support grants, where agricultural educators can apply for a $100 dollar grant to purchase materials to support the delivery of these modules, or to help offset costs associated with off-site field experiences, as well as information about hosting My Local Cooperative Instructional Modules workshop at the state, regional and national level. Again, you can access these resources by visiting www.naae.org/podcast.

 

We'd again like to thank Mr. WesCrawford and Ms. Nanci Lilja for joining us for this episode and for the CHS Foundation for making the My Local Cooperative Instructional Modules possible. The CHS Foundation is funded by charitable gifts from CHS Inc. and since 1956 has been committed to making a long lasting and measurable impact on rural America on behalf of their farmer owners.

 

Thank you for joining us for the very first episode of Connect, a podcast by the National Association of Agricultural Educators. It's always hard to say goodbye, but we'll be back with more episodes to help you build even more connections to help you grow as a professional. If you'll like what you heard, we'd love to have you subscribe, rate, or give us a review on iTunes or whatever platform you used so we can connect more agricultural educators to our podcast. Until next time!

https://www.naae.org/profdevelopment/podcast.cfm

 

Alan Green: 

 

A connection; a relationship in which a person is linked or associated with someone else. For us agricultural educators, connections are the building blocks to a great culture, and building loyalty in our profession. No matter how long you’ve been in the classroom, we as agricultural educators use the connections we have every single day; from working with students to collaborating with other educators and administrators to strengthen ourselves as professionals and grow our programs.

 

Connections are powerful, and that’s exactly why we’re here. It is my privilege to welcome to Connect, a podcast by the National Association of Agricultural Educators. Connect is a podcast for current and future agricultural educators, and works to educate listeners about NAAE resources, inform them of new and innovative practices, and connect current and future agricultural educators and supporters.

 

I’m your host Alan Green, and I’m an agricultural educator from the thumb of Michigan. During each episode we’ll be connecting with agricultural educators and supporters across the country as we share resources and connections that are important to you as agricultural educators. We’ll be having discussions about the latest classroom ideas, teacher wellness and work life balance, NAAE resources - and everywhere in between. So whether you’ve been teaching for 30 days or 30 years, welcome to Connect, a podcast by the National Association of Agricultural Educators, We are excited that you are here, so let’s get started.