Friday, September 11, 2015

#psuaged15: Jill Gordon: A Pennsylvania girl in Ohio: I still haven’t figure out what a Buckeye is

Each week, the Penn State Ag Ed Roars! Blog will highlight a student teacher that is out in the field teaching and learning valuable experiences that they can use in their future! Jillian Gordon (@jillianpsu) is teaching at Ridgemont High School in Ohio under the supervision of Mrs. Jolliff in Mount Victory Ohio.
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I can tell a lot about a person based on the way they look at me when I tell them I am a Pennsylvania born Penn Stater student teaching is rural Ohio. Almost anyone I talk to, the conversation ends with “oh, good for you! Best of luck!” The difference is that some people say that phrase with a look of genuine support and others still just look confused. The look of confusion people don’t get why I would take a risk and move 7 hours away for a semester when I could have easily gotten a great experience at a high school nearby my home in Pennsylvania. The genuine support people understand that while the risk of falling exists, so does the chance to fly.

Ever since I started my journey as a Penn State Ag Education major, I wanted to travel to another state for my student teaching experience. Not because I didn’t like Pennsylvania, or the PA Ag Ed Family, I consider many teachers across the Keystone State to be some of my best mentors, coaches and friends. I wanted to go to another state because I strive to see things from a new perspective. I can still remember sitting in Dr. Foster’s office as a sophomore, explaining my goals. As any good mentor does, he gave me more questions than answers as I left that meeting, but I still left with a smile knowing my goal was still a very real possibility.

Fast forward to junior year, sitting in AEE 311. The topic that day was creating and managing an effective Program of Activities, and Mrs. Stephanie Jolliff from Ridgemont High School in Ohio was the virtual guest speaker for the day. Like most of my classmates, my jaw was dropped for most of the presentation. One way or another, leadership was “ripped right out” of all of her students with each of them planning at least one event, they were a National Models of Innovation Winner, TWICE, and she had three kids and an ag teacher for a husband to top it all off. This lady was a rock star! The presentation ended, and Dr. Foster said his final remarks, “you know, I have always wanted to send a student teacher to Ohio…” A smile was instantly plastered across my face.

And now here I am, sitting in an Agricultural Education classroom in Ridgeway, Ohio working with that awesome lady who I called a rock star over a year prior, and not to mention the nearly 90 kick-butt students here at Ridgemont High School. Although Mother Nature does not seem to be a fan of me teaching (I have been here for six weeks, and been in school for only two Thursdays and one Monday…) I cannot even begin to describe the amount of growth and learning that has taken place for me.

Since most of you are probably not familiar, this is where I have been for the last six weeks.

I am a little over an hour Northwest of Columbus. It takes me about 7 hours to get here from State College, 9 and ½ hours to get home to Morgantown, PA. I am living in Mount Victory, Ohio a small little town with one stop light and a whole lotta corn fields. There are 500 students at Ridgemont (K-12). Here at Ridgemont, I get to teach plant science, FFA History, robotics, experimental design, welding and metal fabrication, professional communication, and integrate a brand new flipped/blended learning piece, just a mention a few things, thanks to the unending support from administration and staff across the district.
It has been a challenge for sure. Planning units and lessons is a whole different ball game when you gave the faces of students you will be teaching right in front of you. Some of my students are far more knowledgeable than me on some of the topics that I am teaching, which can be both a massive resource and a huge intimidation factor. I struggle with balancing doing cool learning experiences with the students versus teaching them the things they are “supposed to learn” as mandated by the state. On top of that, I am definitely not used to living in an area where a grocery or Wal-Mart trip takes a little extra planning to fit into my schedule. I am also not used to working in such a small school that has about 130 students and 20 faculty.
My lessons don’t always go as planned, creating a consistent routine has been all but impossible and if I am being honest I really miss all of my friends back home in Happy Valley. These are some of the things I struggle with, but from struggle comes greatness. Although parts have been challenging, I have loved every second of it. The students at Ridgemont are wonderful, and push me every day to be the best educator. Mrs. Jolliff has been an unbelievable mentor in offering me guidance, reality checks and more often than not a good solid belly laugh. Only six weeks in, I have an even greater assurance that I want to be an Agricultural Educator.
I have said this in previous blogs I have written for Penn State Teach Ag ROARS! But I think it is important enough to say it again. I have learned that no matter where you go, students are students. Whether they admit it or not, they crave learning and attention. The students don’t care that my favorite dress to wear is blue and white, a shout out to my favorite place in the world, Penn State, or that I have absolutely no idea which schools are rival schools both in sports and FFA events, or that I have no idea what a Buckeye is (seriously though, I’m not kidding, what is it?!).
What they care about is the fact that I care about them. I might only be here for 15 weeks, but I will always call the “my kids.” The Ridgemont community has welcomed me with open arms. Only five weeks in, I know it is going to be very difficult when I need to say goodbye.
After graduation, I am not quite sure where I will be. My heart is very much in Agricultural Education, if you can’t already tell, and I have a few (very different) options in front of me currently that I am weighing, while still searching for teaching jobs and the like.
As someone who hopes to start an Ag Education program from scratch in a more urban setting, I have spent a lot of time out here just thinking. Thinking about how the philosophies and successes here at Ridgemont can be transferred into a community that isn’t quite so tight knit, or how to create the level of trust and support that exists from the administrative leadership of Mrs. Jill Stover and Mrs. Emmy Beeson. I have been thinking about the professional lessons and life lessons I have learned, and the ones that I still hope to gain. But most importantly, I have been thinking about how much I love this job and the opportunities I have in it.

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 Follow us on Twitter at TeachAgPSU, on Facebook, or on our blog!

Olivia Murphy-Sweet
2016 Student Teacher Candidate
Blog Editor

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed reading this post. Then as I was scrolling Facebook came across this article about a tradition at a more rural school than Jillian's Ohio one. :)