Kansas State agricultural education faculty and students participated in the 2018 Kansas FFA State Conference of Chapter Leaders at the beginning of July. More than 150 Kansas FFA members came together at Rock Springs 4-H Center for three days to form effective leadership teams for their chapters.
During that time, they competed in a scavenger hunt, packaged more than 30,000 meals for local food banks and met other leaders from across Kansas.
The communications and agricultural education department hosted the “Tagged to Teach Ag” event on April 30. This event brought more than 250 FFA members from high schools across the state to the Manhattan campus to learn more about what it means to be an agricultural educator.
Current Kansas State University agricultural education students and faculty gave presentations about the program and future career options. Information about the agricultural education degree and other K-State programs was also available.
FFA members also enjoyed ice cream from Call Hall and fresh cookies from the grain science and industry department while they played interactive games, collected “ag swag” and prizes and took photos with Willie the Wildcat at the “Tagged to Teach Ag” photo booth.
“We would like to give special thanks to the ag ed students, FFA advisors and presenters for making this a great event,” said Instructor Brandie Disberger, one of the event organizers. “We hope everyone considers teaching ag as a career!”
Dr. Gaea (Wimmer) Hock (’03, ’06) assisted with the Western Kansas Youth Water Advocates Conference in Garden City, March 23–24.
This conference helps high school FFA members learn more about water issues and develop skills for advocating in their communities. Ten students from six FFA chapters participated in the event.
Dr. Hock taught sessions about considering the target audience and the basics of research. Melissa Poet (’17) and Russell Plaschka co-hosted this conference and served as mentors for students and sponsors for the event. Poet currently teaches agricultural education at Greeley County High School, and Plaschka serves as the Career and Workforce Development Specialist at the Kansas Department of Agriculture.
K-State agricultural education student teaching interns recently participated in two days of professional development for the Ag Ed Enhancing Pre-Service Instruction (EPIC) Experience sponsored by Kansas Corn Commission. Students were able to tour and talk with various production agricultural sectors in Garden City, Kansas.
During the tour, students:
visited Royal Farms Dairy and learned from Kyle Averhoff about the farm’s story, goals, and the role of corn in the dairy industry;
toured Bonanza Ethanol Plant, where Jeff Gilbert and colleagues spoke about the ethanol industry and their Garden City plant;
visited Reeve Cattle Co., where the Reeve family discussed their use of ethanol, feed distillers grains, and other corn feedstuffs in their cattle operation;
visited the K-State Research and Extension Southwest Research Station, where Dwane and Grace Roth, Mike Meyer, and Michael Kempke discussed water issues in southwest Kansas and emerging technologies for sustainable water use;
heard perspectives from individual corn producers, Russell Komlofske, Kyler Millershaski, and Jeff Mai;
visited Sublette High School agricultural education teacher, Will Johnson who shared advice for starting a new agricultural education program and beginning careers as educators;
and visited Cimarron High School agricultural education teacher Ryan Miller who spoke to students about the importance of positive community relationships to create successful agricultural education programs.
At the beginning of February, the AgEd Club hosted their annual KSU Speech Contest in Bluemont Hall. There were over 180 Kansas FFA members competing and 45 K-State students helping throughout the day.
Categories of speeches included freshman, sophomore, junior, senior, creed, and extemporaneous.
Beth Gaines, executive director of the Kansas FFA Foundation, experienced a change of heart her junior year of college. This occurrence was frightening at first, but allowed her to realize her true passion and started her on the track toward her current career.
“Follow your heart and your passions, they will take you where you need to go,” Gaines says.
Throughout her childhood and early college years, Gaines was solely interested in utilizing her Kansas State degree (’91) in agricultural communications and journalism for radio broadcasting.
“As a junior in college, I had an internship with a radio company and realized very quickly that was not what I wanted,” Gaines says.
Getting an opportunity to experience the reality of working in the radio industry allowed her to gain new insight and understand what to expect from a career in broadcasting. Although the internship caused her to drift from her original plan, it led her to her true passion within agricultural communications.
For Katelyn Bohnenblust, FFA has been an integral part of her life she took her first agricultural class in the eighth grade. Now, as she begins her sophomore year at Kansas State University in the agricultural education program, it is still a foundational part of her life but in a different way.
Recently, Bohnenblust was selected through a strenuous screening process to serve as a nominating committee member for the 90th National FFA Convention, which takes place at the end of October in Indianapolis, Indiana. As a nominating committee member, Bohnenblust, along with eight other committee members from across the nation, will interview 41 national officer candidates for six national officer positions over the course of 11 days.
Few have the honor to serve on this committee. Bohnenblust is just the third Kansan to ever be selected.
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.
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.