September 21st marks National Teach Ag Day!
On this day, we recognize the important role agriculture teachers play in our schools and communities, and we encourage those who don't have ag programs to teach school-based agriculture. As a high school agriculture educator at Penn Manor, I help students learn where their food comes from and become educated consumers.
My path into agriculture education looks very different than the paths of many other agriculture teachers. I came from a high school without any agriculture education classes, started my college career as an Early Childhood and Special Education major, and did not even know what FFA or agriculture education was until I stepped into my first agriculture class at Penn State in August of 2018.
After learning that agriculture is taught in high schools around PA and the US, I decided this was something I needed to learn more about. This may surprise some, but my first FFA event ever was attending the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis, IN. At this event, I was blown away by the sea of corduroy blue jackets with the FFA emblem and golden letters identifying where each student was from. This first experience helped to show me how large an organization FFA is, and what opportunities students have at their fingertips in agricultural education.
Fast forward three years later and I am in my first year teaching agriculture mechanics at Penn Manor High School in Lancaster. In the time between my first FFA event and starting as an FFA advisor at Manor FFA, I had to learn so much. To an outsider, there are a lot of TLAs (three-letter acronyms) in the FFA. Words like SAE, CDE, and AET come as second nature to many individuals; however, I was challenged to learn all of this new material.
One of my favorite parts about being an agriculture is the community that it brings. Agriculture teachers are willing to share their knowledge to anyone who is willing to listen, so just ask!
I am now in year 3 of teaching agriculture mechanics and plant science at Penn Manor High School. In these past few years, many opportunities have been made available that I never thought were possible. Here are just a few highlights of my time as an agriculture teacher.
The Center for Professional Personnel Development at Penn State provides training for new and beginning agriculture teachers from around Pennsylvania. Through this program, I was paired with another teacher as a mentor, participated in webinars surrounding helpful information for new teachers, and discovered so much from industry tours. Some of the highlights were a mushroom workshop, turfgrass workshop, and Chesapeake Bay workshop
Working to collaborate with other teachers from my school district is something that I really looked forward to at Penn Manor. Since my start at Penn Manor, we have collaborated with the Edible Classroom, a nonprofit organization in Lancaster, PA working to create and sustain learning gardens. In three of my Intro to Ag Mechanics classes, students learned how to build raised bed gardens that were then transported to one of our district's elementary schools where students can start the process of learning where their food comes from. Another collaboration occurred between my Plant Science class and the Nutrition class from Family and Consumer Science classes. Students participated in an exchange where we learned about hydroponics production and harvested lettuce and basil. Afterward, we went into the nutrition class where we used lettuce and basil to create lettuce wraps.
This past summer, I spent a month traveling across Uganda with 10 other educators to learn, teach, and collaborate about agriculture education. I learned about culture, Ugandan agriculture, and the kindness of the Ugandan people. This picture is from my partner school, St. Katherine's Secondary School, where we started collaborating in starting a brooder for 400 day-old chicks to eventually produce eggs that St. Katherine's students will eat at their school. This trip was made possible through a Fulbright-Hays Grant and is a trip that I will cherish forever.
Teaching agriculture is a career not for the faint of heart. But it can be a rewarding career for many. If you have any interest in learning more about becoming an agriculture teacher, please ask or check out the National Association of Agricultural Educators website. Together, we can build the next generation of agriculturists.