Monday, May 16, 2016

Domestic Study Away Day 5: Rising above the Challenges! #PSUAgEd2TN

Editors Note: The following is a reflective observation from different students participating in #psuaged2TN, our domestic study away program. Halee Wasson (@wasson_halee
), a sophomore and member of #psuaged18, shares below.  This incredible event is made possible by the generosity of the CHS Foundation.

As I reflect upon the last day Penn State Teach Ag! Society explored Tennessee’s Agricultural Education Programs, I find myself referencing the following quote: Never stop learning because life never stops teaching.” As a student I am constantly learning; which is why I find education valuable, since I can take what I learn in the classroom and connect it to an experience I am participating in at that time.

On Friday May 13th, Penn State Teach Ag! Society traveled to Clarkrange High School in Clarkrange, Tennessee to explore their Agricultural Education Program. Clarkrange High School is located in the small community of Clarkrange in Fentress County. After visiting metropolitan schools earlier this week, this visit was a great way to wind down, and participate in a rural school experience. The size of CHS’s student body is around 300 students, with an average graduating class size of 60 students. Although small, Clarkrange’s Career Technology Education (CTE) program provides many opportunities for their students to explore and expand their knowledge in career fields related to their interest. We were given a tour of all these CTE programs by Mr. Lee Little (referred to as Mr. Lee); who was the past Agricultural teacher, but is currently serving as the director of the CTE program. Although we enjoyed learning about all their programs, our biggest interest was at our last stop of the tour—the Agricultural Education Program.

During our time in Clarkrange’s agriculture classroom we were able to engage with students and teach them about the many opportunities and careers in the agricultural industry. With the class sizes being no larger than 14 students, we taught our lesson in pairs of two. This provided the other Penn State teacher candidates who were not teaching time to engage in discussion with Mr. Pat Little (referred to as Mr. Pat); who is the current agricultural teacher. Mr. Pat is an amazing individual who is never short of words for the subject he is passionate about – teaching agriculture! Passion and dedication is truly the driving force behind the success of this program.  Every question we presented to Mr. Pat or Mr. Lee was answered with stories of their personal experiences pertaining to the subject matter. These men truly devote themselves to bettering their students, school, and community. They have many successes that they can claim; however, Mr. Lee pointed out, “Although successes are important, failures are just as important.” Like all programs, Mr. Pat admitted to challenges that are presented in his rural school and community.

Though I never personally experienced the challenges Mr. Pat presented, I was thankful that I was able to understand the impact of the issue from learning about it in my rural sociology course. As you may be aware, the percentage of the population living in poverty has fallen, but rural areas still continue to be home to a large majority of the nation’s poor. This is due to many factors, but I feel the most important contributor that was pointed out by Mr. Pat is the rural brain drain. A brain drain is when many educated/professional people leave an area and move to another area that potentially provides better living conditions, more job opportunities, and better pay. In return, this leaves behind those without education or ambition, and prevents the area from growth, socially and economically. Due to this, sometimes school is a better place for a student than at home which is why Mr. Pat finds it important to make the experience a positive one. He does this by ensuring every opportunity presented to students is available to all. This provides students the chance to grow and better themselves.

As a future educator, I feel I have the ability to instill knowledge and ambition to create an intrinsic motivational experience while students are enrolled in my program. Overall, I hope that if I am provided the opportunity, I can create an impact in a rural school through passion and dedication like Mr. Lee and Mr. Pat. The stories shared with us were great reminders why we chose our future as an agricultural educator—for the students.

Follow along with our experience on Twitter by using #PSUAgEd2TN!  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. 

Halee Wasson
2018 Student Teacher
Agricultural & Extension Education

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