I spent the day yesterday in Lima at the University of Northwestern Ohio with the Ohio Association of Agricultural Educators. The trade organization representing Ohio’s ag ed teachers hosted its annual summer conference this week, with teachers gathering to learn the latest trends, opportunities, technologies, challenges, and issues in agriculture and the profession of teach food and natural resource production.
As a former Ag Ed Major and Past State FFA Officer, I have a special place for these folks who teach young people about our most important industry (and it doesn’t hurt that they really know how to have a good time…). I was impressed with the new teachers I met this week, people like Andy Rager at Paulding and Tessa Lutz at Riverdale, and I was glad to reconnect with friends like Kellie Warner at Edgewood and Sue (Hoop) Davis at Ridgewood.
I interviewed several teachers, as well as several of the presenters at the conference. Please support your local ag ed program and FFA chapter – these young people need our support, and they will ultimately be the folks leading and growing our businesses and communities in the not-so-distant future.
Also, my hats off to some of my favorite ag teachers and FFA advisors who are retiring this year after anywhere from 30 to 35 years of service to students and agriculture:
– Bill Reed at Tri-Valley
– Tim Niemeyer at Margaretta
– Ken Fliehman at East Clinton
– Ralph Coffman at Fort Frye
– Nevin Taylor at Fairbanks
And of course, these are just a few of the giants we’ve lost in ag education in the past few years. A generation is truly in the process of hanging up its spurs, and my hope is that we’ll be able to find enough outstanding young professionals to take their place. I don’t know how you replace guys like Ken Fliehman and Ralph Coffman, but nonetheless they’ve certainly earned the right to relax a little.
I’ve got some great stories about these guys, like the time Mr. Reed promised his students that if at least 50 of them went to FFA Camp he’d run straight off the school bus and into the Lake – which he did when 56 Members came to Camp that week! Or, the time that Mr. Niemeyer helped Jesse Buxton and I build the infamous “floating campfire” at our last camp session as officers… One of the most memorable campfires ever (at least in my mind), and one that Todd Davis probably still has nightmares about…
The thing that makes a teacher great, of course, is more than the skills they teach or the knowledge they impart; it’s as much about the values they instill and the encouragement they provide to students both in the classroom and in life beyond the school. I’m glad we have so many folks who understand that in our high school agriculture programs here in Ohio.