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FFA’ers seek second teacher

By Staff | Jan 9, 2015

-Farm News file photos FARMERS SCHOOL is an annual winter program sponsored through the Sibley-Ocheyedan ag education program and organized by the ag instructor. Seniors within the school district’s ag program asked the school board in December to consider expanding the program to a second teacher, opening ag and FFA programs to middle school-aged students and for starting new programs.

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SIBLEY – Brian Gottlob likes to run a busy ag education program and keep his FFA chapter running on the same track as it’s been on since district patrons can remember.

It takes time to keep it all coordinated and operating, he said, and leaves little time to do anything else.

That’s why Gottlob’s FFA officers approached the Sibley-Ocheyedan School District’s school board to ask for an additional person in that department. They are the ones who are behind this request, Gottlob said.

The additional person would serve in both the ag education and FFA departments, with the driving force of adding an FFA program at the district’s middle school level, and supporting the high school program.

Brian Gottlob

Gottlob sees an extra person as someone to work beside him, not for him.

“From my point of view … the line between FFA and ag education is quite difficult to decipher most of the time,” Gottlob said. “This is especially true if instructors do a great job of incorporating preparation for career development events (CDEs) with classroom instruction.

“In fact, the balance of these is often a debate.”

Gottlob said he grew up in one chapter and student-taught at another under the philosophy that ag instruction can, and should, include FFA to provide significance to learning.

“Why? How? Because the FFA CDEs are set up to emulate real career situations as closely as possible,” he said.

BOB PURVIS, a horticulturist from Purvis Nursery and Orchard in Homedale, Idaho, visited with attendees at the Adult Farmer Night in March.The workshop on tree crops was Brian Gottlob’s attempt to introduce his non-farming students and their families to agriculture other than row-cropping.

The department currently has one part-time clerical aide.

“The (ag education) curriculum needs some support. Mr. Gottlob teaches eight periods a day, so he has no prep time (during school hours),” said Josh Wagenaar, 18, chapter president. “He has no time to do anything in addition to what he’s already doing.”

Wagenaar and three other FFA officers approached the school board at its December meeting, making the request for additional staff, in hopes of seeing the program remain strong.

He said the chapter would like to get a greenhouse going.

“There are so many things we want to do, but Mr. Gottlob has no time,” Wagenaar said, adding he would like to learn more about animals and livestock science. “He’s doing a phenomenal job and we all think he’s going above and beyond what he is asked to do here.”

Wagenaar said since Gottlob’s time is spoken for all day, he can’t implement other new ideas, even though he puts in long hours in his classroom.

“He will be burned out because of how much work he does. (The) officers try to pick up some of the slack, but there’s only so much we can do to help with that,” he said.

Wagenaar said since he is a senior, he will not see the results if the school board decides to add an additional staff person.

But he still has hopes for others coming up through the ranks.

“I’ve learned so much about leadership, public speaking, doing hands-on activities and teaching to others, giving back to the community and getting involved,” Wagenaar said.

Senior Mystic Henningsen, 17, agrees.

“Our program is already so big that it’s hard for one person to handle,” she said, adding that there are 114 members in the chapter. “Having two teachers would make the program stronger than it already is and it would give the students more learning opportunities.”

“FFA is something everyone can be part of, and in middle school, that’s what they’re searching for,” Henningsen said.

She said she’s gained invaluable experience in FFA, serving as the treasurer for the Northwest District now in her senior year.

“I’ve done things I never would have thought of doing because of FFA,” she said. “I’ve gotten to do some traveling and I’ve made a lot of connections that I think will really help me with my future.”

Susie Bormann, Sibley-Ocheyedan school board president, said she personally supports the idea of adding a person to the ag education department, but said that, like many other districts, their school struggles to meet budget needs, and has even had to make difficult cuts in the last few years.

“I would love to see FFA come to the middle school,” she said. “Our ag and FFA department is wonderful and there is a lot of support for that program throughout our community-but we have to be careful as we consider this request.”

She said there were difficult budget cuts made last year, and there were a handful of people who lost their jobs.

“We also want to be sensitive to that as we consider this request,” she said. “We will have to figure out how to pay for it if we go ahead with it.”

Bormann said the school board will be talking about this in January and February as it works on the budget for the coming school year.

“Brian has been here two years now and has an excellent program,” Bormann said. “He came into a program that was run by the same person (Mike Earl) for so long, and that’s hard to do-but he’s earned the respect of his students.

“The fact that those FFA officers could stand before us so professionally and with such leadership skills says a lot about the program. The FFA has given us a lot to be proud of over the years.”

Scott Johnson, executive secretary of the Iowa FFA Association, said having multi-instructional ag education/FFA departments is not a new concept, but it’s not common, either.

He said Sibley-Ocheyedan had two instructors a number of years ago, but it was for a short period of time.

“There are a handful of schools that have been adding people to their (ag education and FFA) departments,” he said. “It’s not common yet, but it’s not unusual, either.

“Staffing has been increased more overall in the last three or four years than during the previous 20 years.”

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