Thursday, May 16, 2013

E-Portfolios: The Next Frontier

Throughout the job search process, an applicant learns of many ways to demonstrate their competancy, passion, and desire to become an educator.  In my preparation for upcoming interviews, I decided to take the plunge and dive into the world of E-Portfolios.  But where to start?

Since I had little familiarity with creating a web site, I decided to search for a portfolio-hosting site and happened upon Portfoliogen.  After signing up for a free account, I was off and running!

Much to my surprise, creating this porfolio was a very enjoyable experience on many levels.  First, I was able to reflect upon my educational journey that began in my first education course several years ago.  When looking for documents to upload, I happened upon my first "Philosophy of Education" that I had written in 2009.  After comparing this early edition to my final statement of philosophy that I finished revising at the conclusion of my student teaching, it was evident to me that I had grown as an individual and educator.  The experience of student teaching had allowed me to create a new perspective on how a classroom really works and how to motivate students to succeed.  I find it very beneficial to look back on where I have started in my educational journey and where I am at this point in my educational career.  I would be very interested to see how my philosophy changes after 5, 10, 30+ years of teaching...

Secondly, I enjoyed the opportunity to learn how to portray my image as an educator on another platform (i.e. the world wide web).  It is fairly simple to collect paper documents and organize them neatly into a binder.  However, organizing one's accomplishments, philosophy, and photo documentation on a web platform is a task that takes practice.  It was a new adventure that I feel will allow me to gain more confidence in maintaining a class website, FFA web page, or a business website.

Over the past few days, I've been finalizing my E-Portfolio and I'm happy to announce it's completion (for now).  Kudos to Portfoliogen for creating such a user-friendly platform to be used by educators to assemble a professional portfolio! 

Please feel free to visit my E-Portfolio at


Monday, May 13, 2013

Field Trip Frenzy--Wind Mill Farm Visit

Agriculture Education has a unique 'hands-on' approach that draws many students to enroll in Agriculture classes.  However, sometimes learning goes beyond the 4 classroom walls and is extended to working businesses, farms, or industry-locations.  This past Friday, I had the pleasure (while serving as Schuylkill County Dairy Princess) to assist at Wind Mill Farm in Pine Grove as 30+ students enrolled in Agriculture Education at Pine Grove H.S. toured the 400-head Brown Swiss herd.

"Ronnie" Daubert demonstrates to a student how
to attach the milking unit to the cow's udder. Several
students took advantage of the opportunity to milk
a cow at Wind Mill Farm. 
Field trips allow students to make a connection between content learned in the classroom and real-life agriculture applications.  Students saw first-hand how cows are milked and even got a chance to try their own hand at milking under the guidance of some experienced farm owners.  This experience alone allowed students to 'learn by doing' and practice some of the skills they had discussed during the Dairy Science unit within their Animal Science course.

Another benefit of field trips is seeing possible agriculture occupations.  In the case of this visit to Wind Mill Farm, students heard how the Daubert family works with nutritionists, equipment salesmen, FSA employees, agriculture engineers, and many more individuals.  There are hundreds of occupations in agriculture that directly support production agriculturists.  Students heard about the value of some of these occupations to pique their interests and direct their future educational decisions.

Finally, this field trip allowed several generations of agriculture enthusiasts to interact and realize the importance of community connections.  Pine Grove Agriculture Education students have been visiting Wind Mill Farm for several years thanks to the support of the Daubert family.  Community members realize the value of having Agriculture Education in public high schools and readily offer support to the program to create valuable experiences for its students.  Many students said they had often driven by dairy farms, but had never seen the inner workings of the farm.  This field trip opened up lines of communication between the students and the farm family which otherwise would not have occurred if not for this field trip.  Agriculture Education is all about partnerships and creating opportunities for students to realize their potential.

Stay tuned for more entries about the power of Agriculture Education!


Monday, May 6, 2013

Banquet Bonanza: Tri-Valley Style

At the conclusion of each school year, many FFA chapters host a Parent/Member Banquet to celebrate the accomplishments of the members and chapter.  The National FFA Organization (formerly known as the Future Farmers of America) is one segment of an Agriculture Education program.  There are currently over 540,000 FFA members nationwide in over 7, 500 Agriculture Education programs.

On May 3, I had the pleasure of attending my high school chapter’s banquet.  Tri-Valley FFA hosted its 63rd Annual Banquet with over 170 members, parents, and community members in attendance.  I always enjoy attending this banquet since my father was a member of this chapter in addition to my sister.  It was a great feeling to attend and see the next generation of leaders run the banquet program with such confidence and authority. 

The banquet began with the meal and door prize giveaway—a much anticipated tradition at this banquet.  The 2012-2013 Officer Team kicked off the awards portion of the banquet with the much-anticipated Opening Ceremonies.  It was so awesome to see the sense of pride and admiration of these officers as they recited their part much like many members of the audience had done years before.  This is the power of tradition that was evident throughout the banquet.

There were many highlights that followed—29 students receiving their Discovery Degree, 7 Seniors being honored for receiving their Keystone Degree, 3 Honorary Members being recognized for supporting the chapter, and my sister being recognized for being the 7th person from Tri-Valley FFA to receive their American Degree.  Since I received my American Degree last year, we are the first (and only) sibling pair from Tri-Valley FFA to hold their American Degrees at this point in time.

As the banquet came to a close, I felt thankful to have been involved in Agriculture Education during my time as a high school student.  Even though Tri-Valley is a small school district, the Agriculture program has always had unanimous support from the administration and community members alike.  Agriculture Education provides numerous opportunities for students to succeed and prepare themselves for post-secondary education or employment after high school graduation.  Here’s to the next 63 years of successful Agriculture Education at Tri-Valley High School!
Be sure to follow Tri-Valley FFA on Twitter @TriValleyFFA to learn more about the great things going on within this chapter.

The National FFA Organization is a national youth organization of 557,318 student members as part of 7,498 local FFA chapters in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The FFA mission is to make a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education. The National FFA Organization operates under a federal charter granted by the 81st United States Congress and it is an integral part of public instruction in agriculture. The U.S. Department of Education provides leadership and helps set direction for FFA as a service to state and local agricultural education programs. For more, visit the National FFA Organization online at, on Facebook, Twitter and the official National FFA Organization blog.

Friday, May 3, 2013

You're Student-Teaching Where ?!?!?!??!?!??!!?!?


"You're Student-Teaching Where?!?!?!??!?!?!?!"

IMG_0114.JPG         These were the words spoken by my parents last April when I revealed where I had been placed for my student-teaching internship.  To be honest, I was expecting a more reassuring response from them spoken in a calmer tone.  They were surprised to learn that Milton Hershey School (the world's largest private, residential boarding school located in Hershey, PA) even had an Agriculture Program that was thriving with students from a non-farming background.  This fact, however, is what actually drew me to Milton Hershey School.  Coming from a very rural school district with a thriving Agriculture Education program and active FFA chapter, I knew I wanted to challenge myself and experience the diversity of Agriculture Education during my student-teaching internship.  During the short time that I had the pleasure of teaching at Milton Hershey, I've been fortunate to broaden my understanding of the power of Ag. Ed.  Read on to see some of my realizations and observations.

1. A student does not need to grow up in a rural area or live on a farm to take an interest in agriculture.  Let's face it--less than 2% of the US population is directly involved in production agriculture and that number is decreasing every year.  In order for agriculture to meet the challenges of feeding a growing world, students with a non-agriculture background must be recruited into Agriculture Education.  Even in traditionally rural programs, there are fewer and fewer students that were raised on a farm.  Diversity of an Agriculture Education program will provide new perspectives and new ideas to help create a solid foundation for the future of agriculture.  At Milton Hershey, students take a true interest in the agricultural sciences and eagerly come to class wanting to know more about where their food comes from.
2. Agriculture Education is a successful educational model that can benefit students coming from diverse backgrounds. At Milton Hershey, many students come from various socioeconomic statuses and home-life situations.  When given the option to work at the various Agriculture Facilities at the school (such as the Animal Center, Environmental Center, Spartan Ice Cream Shop, or Horticulture Center), students gain a sense of pride and determination in their work.  Students have something positive to look forward to day after day and find a reason to become committed to a cause.  After speaking to staff, faculty, and students, I have learned that working in an agriculturally-based job has literally turned a student's life around.  This is a great example of the positive influence that Agriculture Education can exert on a student's life.

3. Agriculture Education must evolve to meet the demands of the future.  Coming from my small corner of the world, I was convinced that every Ag Ed program should teach Animal Science and Plant Science because that was "traditional agriculture" and tradition can't be broken.  However, after experiencing a different type of program that needs to meet the demands of a diverse student, I've realized the importance of preparing students for future careers in agriculture.  Content that I learned 6 years ago during my high school career is slowly becoming outdated and "old news" in the world of agriculture.  Agriculture has evolved to become a cutting edge, high-tech industry that is going to require future employees to have a strong foundation in science, chemistry, and physics.  I truly believe that Agriculture Education can meet these demands if programs are proactive rather than reactive when choosing curriculum to be used in the classroom. 

            I am very thankful to have had the opportunity to student-teach in a program that was vastly different than the "traditional" program that I experienced during high school.  I had visited urban and "non-traditional" programs during my education courses, but I didn't understand how each of these programs would function on a daily basis.  Milton Hershey allowed me to internalize the day-to-day operation of a non-traditional program and the steps necessary to create a successful program that meets the needs of an urban student population.   Teaching in a non-traditional program this early in my career has helped to mold my philosophy of teaching and will allow me to enter the teaching profession with a broader understanding of Agriculture Education.


Milton Hershey Moments--A Reflection about my Student Teaching Experience

On my first day of student-teaching at Milton Hershey, I got the best advice for student-teaching from the High School Principal, Mr. Weber.  He looked at me straight in the eye and said, “This experience will fly by—make sure you make an impression each day so you can look back and see what your students have achieved.”  This statement was indeed true throughout my experience and I’m glad I heard these words of wisdom at such a great time during this internship.  With that thought in mind, I will reflect on some of the most ‘impactful’ moments during my time student-teaching at Milton Hershey. 

The most memorable moment during my student-teaching experience was teaching FFA History and the Creed.  To gain the interest and respect of my Freshmen classes, I created an “FFA Jacket Challenge” that would award an FFA Jacket to the first student that stood up in class and recited the entire FFA Creed perfectly.  This announcement spread like wildlife between the rest of the agriculture students and a network of support emerged for the Freshman students vying for their very own FFA Jacket.  Each day, upperclassmen would come to class and ask, “Did anyone recite the Creed today?”  It was amazing to see how one simple challenge created electricity and hype between all the agriculture classes.  After weeks of practicing, 2 brave students accepted my challenge and earned their very own FFA Jacket.  Word spread quickly that 2 students were successful and the same electricity and buzz were evident again in my classes.  During my final week of student-teaching, I presented each student with their freshly-pressed FFA Jackets and saw their eyes light up as they put on their jacket for the first time.  I look forward to seeing the journey that these two young FFA members will embark on over the next 3 years.

Another impactful moment was participating in the 2013 State Legislative Leadership Conference (SLLC) Community Service Project with the FFA members on the trip.  As we first approached our community service site, I was worried that my students were not going to be 100% engaged in the service project.  However, when groups were assigned given tasks, it was my students that took the lead and jumped right into the tasks and quickly befriended FFA members from other chapters.  Words cannot describe how proud I was of my students as they accepted a challenge, developed a plan of action, and worked together to achieve it.  When I asked students at the end of the conference what their favorite portion of the conference was, they quickly responded with the community service project because they got to help someone else in need.  This response made my heart smile because I knew that these students, through Agriculture Education, would leave the classroom as productive, caring, and hard-working members of the agricultural industry.  This experience truly exemplified the “Living to Serve” segment of the FFA motto and gave members a chance to become involved in a project larger than them.

Finally, I watched as students took pride in their Agriculture Education program and spoke to over 200 8th grade students during the annual 8th-Grade CTE Tour.  Students had been preparing for this event for weeks and when the time came, their hard work and persistence had paid off as they created an engaging environment for students and chaperones alike.  The students received many compliments for their work during the tour and did a phenomenal job of representing Agriculture Education.  It was amazing to see how the students had banded together to take pride in their Agriculture program and promote it to other prospective students.  I have never seen a group of young people speak with such confidence and determination to recruit next year’s Freshman class.  It was an awesome feeling to know that I helped the students achieve such success.

In conclusion, I never realized the difference that one person could make in such a short period of time.  I have seen students come to life and find their ‘niche’ in Agriculture Education.  After watching the above accomplishments, I firmly believe that Agriculture Education has the potential to make a positive difference in the lives of each student enrolled in an Agriculture class.  Whether a student finds a new interest in agriculture or gains confidence in Public Speaking, Ag Education provides numerous avenues to make a difference in a young person’s life.  Through my student-teaching experience, I’ve learned that a little effort on the part of the instructor can go a long way to help a student and give them an incentive to achieve.