Graduating from college is no easy feat, but for one agricultural education alumnus, it just wasn’t enough. Will Johnson (’17) has went above and beyond after graduation from Kansas State University.
After student teaching in the spring of 2017 at Cimarron High School, he took a leap and accepted a job as a teacher at Sublette High School, a nearby school that didn’t have an FFA program – that quickly changed.
During the summer, Johnson converted the essentially unused shop from storage to a working environment and began paperwork to start an FFA program at the school.
Johnson, a Whitewater, Kansas, native, says, “I really like the area and the people out here. It seemed like a chance to start something new for the community.”
This fall he is teaching an introduction to agriculture class for eighth graders and an agriculture, food, and natural resources class; an animal science class; and an agricultural structures class for high school students. In the future, he hopes to add a plant and soil science class and research in agriculture class to the curriculum.
A little over a year ago, Dr. Gaea (Wimmer) Hock (’03, ’06) and Dr. Jonathan Ulmer joined the Department of Communications and Agricultural Education as agricultural education faculty.
Throughout the past year, these two have been busy preparing students to go back into the classroom as teachers, adding technology into their projects, and igniting positive change within the program. One prominent change they are working on together, with the help of instructor Brandie Disberger, is to revise the agricultural education curriculum credit hours and add three new courses to the program.
In addition to teaching courses, Hock also offers opportunities for students to conduct undergraduate research projects regarding agricultural education and FFA programs in the state. Furthermore, she intends to lead a study abroad trip to the Czech Republic in the future.
The agricultural education program has more opportunities than ever, and students are noticing.
“For teachers looking for new ideas in their classrooms, who don’t feel like they have the time during the school year, CASE is a great way to prepare yourself for a more rigorous and STEM-focused class,” says Brandie Disberger, agricultural education instructor.
Alumnus Jay O’Brien (’13) did not begin his college career knowing he wanted to be an agricultural education major.
“I came from a family that homesteaded in the 1800s in the Cherryvale area, so I originally thought I might want to be a farmer or rancher, or even considered engineering,” O’Brien says. “I found a niche at K-State in the Agricultural Education Club and within my agriculture classes. From there, I started to be more involved with both.”
Each October, the Kansas State University agricultural education program selects students to travel to the National FFA Convention. These students represented the K-State Agricultural Education Club, the Department of Communications and Agricultural Education, and the entire College of Agriculture.
A recent campaign aims to bring attention to the nationwide shortage of agricultural educators. This shortage includes the state of Kansas, home to 176 agricultural education programs. Shannon Washburn, agricultural education professor explains schools that previously did not have programs have added them, increasing the demand for teachers.
The school year is off to a great start with events within and outside the classroom and plenty of students to attend them. The department began fall semester with a record-breaking number of 30 new students in the agricultural communications and journalism major: 7 transfers from other majors, 5 transfers from other institutions and 18 freshmen. Overall, there is now a historic high of 83 students in the major.
We know our alumni are doing great things because their names keep coming up at awards ceremonies. In case you have not heard the news, here is a list of recently honored alumni:
On the Education Side: In addition to recognizing teachers for their years of service, The Kansas Association of Agricultural Editors (KAAE) recognizes outstanding agriculture teachers. Congratulations to our agricultural education alumni honored this summer!
Laura Priest ’06, Lawrence Free State HS—KAAE Young Teacher of the Year