It’s no secret that today’s agricultural education instructors are tasked with a significant amount of work and responsibility. Not only are they teaching students what the multifaceted, ever-evolving world of modern agriculture looks like, but they also typically serve as their school’s FFA advisor – a tall order that commonly results in early mornings, late nights and plenty of nonstop weekends.
However, educators across Oklahoma are happy to rise to the challenge. After all, they’re playing a big role in shaping the state’s next generation of leaders in agriculture.
Oklahoma FFA Adviser Goes Beyond Traditional Classroom Work
Most agricultural education instructors teach a variety of classes throughout the school day, such as general agriculture, agriscience and agricultural communications, and many courses include valuable, hands-on learning opportunities.
For example, Cameron Dale, who teaches classes in areas such as horticulture and agricultural leadership at Elgin High School in Comanche County and is the school’s FFA advisor, has a classroom filled with hydroponic units, which she acquired with grant funds. Dale says several of her students don’t have access to gardens or farms, and she is happy to give them a chance to get their hands dirty at school.
“We don’t have a greenhouse at my school, but my classroom looks like one,” says Dale, one of six people nationwide who received the National Association of Agricultural Educators Outstanding Young Member Award in 2017. “Our hydroponics units have enabled us to offer a program called Garden Buddies in which my students partner with special needs students to cultivate plants, and that’s been very rewarding for everyone involved.”
Jerrod Lundry, an agricultural teacher and FFA advisor at Fairview High School in Major County, also helps his students participate in hands-on education. He oversees Jacket Time TV, a news station and YouTube channel run by agricultural communications students and FFA members that launched in 2016 after the school received technology grants through the Oklahoma Department of Career and Technology Education.
“We have a media production studio filled with everything students might need, including high-tech cameras, lights and a green screen,” says Lundry, who was named National Agriscience Teacher of the Year in 2017 by the National Association of Agricultural Educators. “Students edit using Avid Media Composer, which is the same software many Hollywood studios use, and they have created a ‘Focus on the Farm’ segment that gives them the opportunity to educate the public about agriculture.”
Oklahoma FFA Creates Unique Mentorship Opportunities
As FFA advisors, both Dale and Lundry spend a great deal of time outside of traditional school hours helping members with their supervised agricultural experience projects and assisting them as they prepare for career development events. Plus, they both travel with their members to various FFA competitions across Oklahoma and beyond, providing support and a helping hand.
“You have to have a real passion for both agriculture and educating kids to do this job,” Lundry says. “That’s what has kept me in this profession for 11 years. I work long hours, but I get so much joy from my students and a sense of satisfaction in knowing I’ve helped them in some small way.”
Dale echoes similar sentiments, and she takes pride in helping her students explore the many different paths they could take in life, whether that includes a career in agriculture or another industry.
“Knowing that I’m impacting kids from all walks of life is what keeps me coming to work as an ag teacher and FFA advisor,” Dale says. “I know my students won’t all pursue jobs in agriculture, but they’re going to learn a lot, and that’s going to make them educated consumers in the future. Plus, I love getting the opportunity to connect with students beyond the time spent in classes.”