Monday, July 29, 2013

Entering Year Three: Excited about engaging as a Teacher Leader

[Editor’s Note: Laura Kennedy (Polatnick) came to our teacher preparation program as a graduate student after completing an undergraduate degree in Animal Sciences. She completed an M.Ed in 2011 and is currently entering her third year of teaching agriscience]

My name is Laura Kennedy and I am currently an agriscience teacher at Wilson Middle School in Fishersville, Virginia.  I graduated from Penn State in 2011 with a Masters degree in Agricultural Extension and Education; since then I’ve had the opportunity to work with both secondary and middle school agriculture students. I am now going into my third year of teaching and my second year at the same school! As many will say, the first year as an agricultural teacher can be very challenging – being a new teacher at a new school two years in a row – still just as challenging; but with those challenges come A LOT of fun and life lessons.

Ms. Kennedy and 6th grade Agriscience students engaging
in a wreath making lesson!
As I think back to what brought me to this point, I wanted to make sure that I shared key pieces of information that might help others as they conquer their first few years as an agriculture teacher. First being, do not take on too much your first year of teaching – this is key!!  Many times throughout this year and last, I found myself wanting to be just as great as the other teachers who maybe had 20+ years on me -- and at times I would get discouraged when I would realize I had maybe run out of time and couldn't do certain activities, or I wished I would have planned activities differently because the original plans didn’t work out. As a new teacher feelings of discouragement and frustration then led to questioning whether or not I was cut out for this. At those moments when I felt the most self doubt, I would always think back to what was taught to me by my professors – don’t try and conquer it all in your first few years, you’ll burn out. Remembering this made me feel good, and gave me the confidence as a first year / new teacher to know that even if I didn't get to an activity or event this year, I could and would the next.  I also found myself giving this advice to many of the other new agriculture teachers around the county who were challenged by their own self doubt.

Ms. Kennedy with three of her 2013-14 Chapter Officers
who received a scholarship FFA jacket!
Another piece of information that really stuck with me was the importance of being involved in your professional organizations like PAAE and NAAE – I’m teaching in Virginia so we have the VAAE. These associations grant so many opportunities and provide such great information, not to mention the lasting relationships that you build with other teachers and vendors throughout the state and even the country. Last year I made a promise to myself that I would make it a goal to attend conferences put on by these associations because of the advice that was given to me by my agricultural teacher educators. With that being said I laugh because at this years’ ag. teachers’ conference, I volunteered to become the Northern Area Vice President for VAAE. To be honest I was terrified by the thought of having the extra responsibility -- but with the overwhelming lack of volunteers to fill the position I raised my hand.  What makes me excited about this opportunity is the fact that this association is so important in aiding not only current ag. teachers, but future ones as well -- and it is because of what I have learned throughout this continuing process that I feel so strongly about these associations.

The last thing I would like to share is this – there will be times in life, not just in your career, where opportunities will present themselves and you will feel, for whatever reason inadequate, which then may prevent you from participating – but in those moments, please remember that the only person who is doubting your ability is yourself – push past that and participate, raise your hand and get involved. As Mary Kay Ash (Entrepreneur, founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics Inc.) said don't limit yourself; many people limit themselves to what they think they can do. You can go as far as your mind lets you. What you believe, you can achieve.” To all future and current educators, enjoy this year and remember to have some fun!

To learn more about starting on the path to having a career that makes a positive impact on the lives of students across the globe by becoming an agricultural educator, please contact the agricultural teacher education program at teachag@psu.edu. Follow us on Twitter at TeachAgPSU, on Facebook, or on our blog

Laura Kennedy (Polatnick)
Guest Blogger
2011 PSU AEE Graduate
Twitter: @LaKennedy0906


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