November 5th-7th, five Western Agriculture Education students ranging from freshman to seniors attended the annual Illinois Association of Vocational Agriculture Teachers (IAVAT) Student Branch Bus Tour. This tour helps show students what to expect within their first year of teaching, demonstrates successful classrooms and communities, as well as provides supplementary material.
The tour began on Thursday, November 5th at the Illinois FFA Center in Springfield. Once we arrived we were greeted by students from University of Illinois, Illinois State University, Southern Illinois University – Carbondale, and Murray State. Soon after arrival we participated in a Food Science Career Development Experience (CDE) activity, as well as heard from some local agriculture teachers. One of the teachers that volunteered time to come talk to us was Mrs. Kiersten Edgar, from PORTA High School. Mrs. Edgar answered questions that we had regarding concerns of a first year teacher. John Edgar, the FFA Center assistant director, spoke to us on the topic of how the FFA center is a resource that should be utilized throughout our careers.
The next morning Friday, November 6th, all of the participants loaded a charter bus and headed to Paxton-Buckley-Loda (PBL) High School where we met with Mr. White and Mr. Anderson. While at PBL we learned about what they do within their program to be successful, and how to balance a dual teacher program.
After spending time seeing the in’s and out’s of PBL’s program, we headed to Heyworth High School. Mr. Nutter’s program has implemented some incredible fundraising projects and has assembled a prominent social media presence. The primary fundraisers implemented at this program are a custom FFA golf cart raffle as well as a raffle of a tractor that the students restored. Mr. Nutter shared how he built the program from the ground up, tips and tricks to keep students involved within FFA as well as the classroom and how pertinent it is to have a supportive administration and alumni to foster a thriving program.
After visiting Heyworth, we traveled to Macomb. While in Macomb we had an informational session guided by Mr. Brian Schullian, from Southeastern High School and Miss Ann Ochs, from Shawnee High School and Miss Sara Conner, from Prophetstown High School. They all shared lesson plans that will come in handy when planning Introduction to Agriculture classroom activities.
The next morning Saturday, November 7th we awoke and loaded the charter bus once again and traveled to Bushnell-Prairie City (BP-C). Mr. Sargeant, the agriculture teacher at BP-C was kind enough to come in on a Saturday to open his classroom for discussion on the importance of Alumni and community support, and how to balance family-life. Mr. Riggs a BP-C Alumni also came to talk to us about his ideas and experiences from an alumni perspective. Mr. Riggs commented on the impact that FFA gave to his kids as well as the local community. These experiences are what lead him and his wife to continue to be involved in ever aspect of Heyworth’s FFA as possible. Mrs. Riggs also provided us with a sweet treat of homemade cinnamon rolls and banana nut muffins to enjoy on our way to our next destination. After spending time with Mr. Sargeant and Mr. Riggs we headed back to Springfield.
Once we arrived back at the FFA center, we were greeted by the Illinois FFA Alumni Council. Mr. Ted Hughes, the District 5 Director, shared a personal story that motivated him to be the best educator, friend, and mentor for his students. Mr. Rick DeSchepper, the District 1 Director, inspired us with wise words of advice as we prepare to head into the education field. When the session was over we began to say goodbye to the other incredible future educators that we met along the way. As we said our goodbyes, we came to the realization that these people will be not only our colleagues, but the support system we will turn to as we go through our first year teaching experiences.
A special thank you to Miss Ann Ochs FFA Adviser at Shawnee High School, Mr. Chris Clemons, graduate adviser for the Collegiate FFA at Southern Illinois University, and Mrs. Kathy Novotney the FCAE District 4 Program Adviser for being the facilitators of this entire trip.
Then knowledge gained, and the friendships made over the short trip will be something I look back on and be thankful for. Its organizations like IAVAT, Illinois FFA, and the FFA Alumni that provide incredible resources, knowledge, and support for agriculture education. So on behalf of myself and the other students that attended the 2015 Illinois Association of Vocational Agriculture Teachers Student Branch Bus Tour, thank you for all of your hard work, dedication and support you have and will give us along our journey to become agriculture educators.
All photos are courtesy of the Illinois Agriculture Education FCAE Facebook page. For more information on FCAE and more photo’s from the bus tour please visit: www.facebook.com/ILAgEd
Hello, thank you for reading my post. My name is Kayla Riedle, I am a senior at Western Illinois University, studying agriculture education within the School of Agriculture. I am a member of The Gamma Kappa Chapter of Chi Omega, as well as Collegiate FFA/PAS/AG ED Club, and The Omega Chapter of Rho Lambda. Upon graduation I hope to obtain a job in a small high school so that I can impact the lives of students, and educate them on the importance of agriculture on a local, state, and global level.