Story by Jackie Newland, sophomore (ACJ)
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.”
Once O’Brien discovered agricultural education, the faculty prepared him for the teaching experiences to come.
“I was helped most by the advisors,” O’Brien says. “They worked closely with us, making us aware of what was expected and the importance of relationships with future teachers, students and community members. We made visits to high schools throughout the state, and I gained hands-on experience that would help me prepare students for the real world.”
Upon graduation, O’Brien taught one year at Centre High School. He is now an agricultural instructor in his hometown at Cherryvale High School. O’Brien is already making a difference in students’ lives and is eager to continue passing on the knowledge that sparked his own interest in agriculture. He prepares students for FFA activities, as a way of introducing them to opportunities within agriculture.
“Contests prepare students for the agricultural industry. Simple things like traveling and showing them new places and people help them know there is something else besides hometown, USA. There are 50 states and FFA members get to talk to people from all them. Hands-on experience and real-world application are how FFA helps our kids,” O’Brien says.
Students are not the only ones who have been learning and growing since O’Brien began teaching.
“I have learned there is never one student that’s the same,” O’Brien says. “Each has different needs, wants, desires and motivations. You have to be flexible to reach the students and transfer your knowledge to them. You also have to be willing to do anything for them, inside and outside of the classroom, that will keep them engaged and involved.”
He understands and embraces diversity within his classroom to be the best teacher he can be for each student. After two years of experience, O’Brien is making great progress and will continue to influence lives through his passion for teaching. He hopes his love of teaching will inspire others, and he is happy to pass along a few words of wisdom.
“Don’t limit yourself,” O’Brien says. “Try different things, but know you won’t be able to do everything. Aim for your strengths, find them, develop them and have fun with it. Use your strengths and abilities to better people. You may someday be an ag teacher.”