Alan Green

Episode 2 - The Case on CASE / Transcript 

Blog Post created by Alan Green on Aug 14, 2020

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!

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