Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Dr. Edgar Yoder's PSU Legacy

After 39 years as faculty at Penn State, Dr. Edgar Yoder is retiring as a Professor of Agricultural and Extension Education.  Previously, Dr. Yoder had served 10 years as a high school agriculture teacher and principal in Ohio and Virginia. Without a doubt, he is leaving behind a legacy of success in the classroom and research outside of class at Penn State University. His 39 years at Penn State, "Went by really fast with lots of changes," he said. 

When Dr. Yoder was completing his agriculture student teaching internship, he was asked by his supervising teacher to write a two page letter to the school district superintendent stating why he wanted to be an agriculture teacher and why agricultural education was important in a high school curriculum. After the end of the first week his supervising teacher and the superintendent met and discussed philosophy of education and the role of agricultural education in public education. Dr. Yoder's philosophy on agricultural education: 

1.      Agricultural educators, in fact educators in general, have two primary goals.
a.     First, as educators we assist learners in preparing for life to earn a living, contributing to society by assuming civic and social responsibilities and contributing to the improvement of the communities in which they live.
b.     Second as educators we facilitate the development of learners’ abilities for thinking critically and addressing a broad range of social, economic, cultural and professional related issues impacted by the agricultural sector.

2.     To address those two goals as an agricultural educator I have a responsibility to provide learners with realistic and authentic learning situations.  This provides learners with opportunities to develop their skills, abilities and apply their knowledge within the social context environment of the community in which they live and work.  This means learning is much more than taking a test or passing an exam.  Learning is for real life!

3.     Teaching and learning is a democratic process in which the teacher and learner are active participants.  The agricultural educator facilitates an active learning process.  The learner is not a passive receptacle but is an engaged participant in the process.  As a teacher I learn from the students.  It is impossible for the agricultural educator to have all the answers.  As an agricultural educator you desire to have students develop the capacity to become lifelong learners and knowledgeable about resources to access to help address issues important to them.

4.      As an agricultural educator I have a unique opportunity to be a change agent in the lives of learners.  Dr. Lenkiatis reminded me in our conversation that each student was important, and that as the ag student teacher I was expected to be flexible, within reason, for providing a variety of learning activities so that students with a variety of abilities could find success in their learning.

5.     Agricultural education is a unique, community based program for youth development.  Mr. Weir knew that I had been very competitive in sports, FFA and 4-H.  His words were “It is the youngster inside the FFA jacket that should be the focus.  You will be remembered in the long run for how you helped that youngster using the resources available through ag education (vocational agriculture back then).  You will not be remembered in the long run for how many judging contests were won, how many times the FFA chapter was a top ten state chapter, how many state FFA recipients, etc.”

6.     Appreciate your successes and learn from your mistakes and criticisms. 

Left-Right; Ed Yoder, Russell Redding, Jim Diamond,
Ellen Duckworth, MeeCee Baker
Infront; Richard Grubb
Dr. Yoder has integrated his philosophy into the classroom by focusing on the person instead of the FFA jacket. He has borrowed strategies from other teachers that have modeled effective teaching as well. A piece of wisdom he shared was: 

"You have to be yourself in an ever changing environment. That means some of your values and beliefs are going to be challenged as educational reforms and changes are constantly proposed. In my personal view, I believe with all the educational reform efforts and proposed changes, the core components of school based Agricultural Education programs provide the foundation for making all education relevant and truly reform education." 

He suggests a few ideas of how to deal with change based on the book Who Moved My Cheese, 

  • Change Happens--They Keep Moving the Cheese
  • Anticipate Change--Be Ready For the Cheese To Move
  • Monitor Change--Smell the Cheese Often So You Know When It Is Getting Old
  • Adapt To Change Quickly--The Quicker You Let Go Of Old Cheese, the Sooner You Can Enjoy New Cheese
  • Change--Move with the Cheese
  • Enjoy Change!--Savor the Adventure and Enjoy The Taste Of New Cheese!
  • Be Ready To Change Quickly And Enjoy It Again--They Keep Moving the Cheese.

Dr. Yoder's career choice was inspired by his high school agriculture teacher Mr. Ken Smith.  Mr. Smith convinced Dr. Yoder to not limit his career options because of his Amish heritage and limited resources. Mr. Smith was a guide, role model, coach, mentor, counselor, and friend to Dr. Yoder. Mr. Smith was being an agriculture teacher, and doing what they do best. He credits agricultural education, through significant role models for motivating him to become a teacher of teachers. His passion for agriculture started when he was young as his family was always involved within the agriculture sector. He realized through an experience organizing a field trip to a dairy farm for a urban school group that far too many people really do not understand the importance of agriculture in their lives. After the field trip the students refused to drink the milk in the cafeteria because it came from dirty cows. 

In his opinion the most important aspect about agricultural education is its uniqueness, and it should be a model for all education. When he was a principal he often would refer back to the basic aspects of agriculture education to resolve issues. Dr. Yoder would visit student's homes, on farms, and businesses as an agriculture teacher and as principal because it helped him understand what the student was experiencing outside of school. Agriculture education made an impact on his life as a teacher of the program using the resources available. The students had impacted his understanding and appreciation for the influence of cultural and economic factors in daily life decisions. He has learned that students reinforce how interdependent we are and how much further we have to go. Learning is a life long endeavor. His favorite part of being an agricultural educator is the people and the relationships and opportunities to work with others that have a commitment to education and agriculture collectively working to enhance the lives of others. Learning to do, Doing to learn, Earning to live, Living to serve.

Over the past 39 years Dr. Yoder has made a lot of great memories with the people (students, faculty, staff, parents, etc.) and activities/events. He doesn't view leaving as taking anything away besides maybe two paper clips, but rather he sees it as making a positive contribution to making Penn State a better education institution. He hopes that he contributed to students having  positive experience as they completed their education at Penn State. We are KNOW you have Dr. Yoder. Thank you for your 39 years of wisdom and inspiration! 

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.

Luke Kerstetter 

Student Blogger 

Twitter Handle: @lmkerstetter96

2020 Agricultural Education Student Teacher


  1. Fewer and fewer of us "long in the tooth" folks hanging around. I started as an assistant professor at Iowa State University in 1978 (after 3 years as an doctoral student/instructor). Two years later, I came to Texas A&M University and have been here since--39 years with a "professorial title" for me as well. But I taught high school vocational agriculture for only three years. So, Dr. ED YODER is a SAGE MENTOR to me as well. Well said by Dr. Foster: Dr. Yoder is a scholar and a gentleman. He cares. He contributes. His legacy is the literally HUNDREDS of lives he has touched directly in preparing teachers--and the THOUSANDS he has influenced thru his former students. I proud to call Dr. ED YODER a colleague. I'm prouder that I call him a FRIEND. KEEP WATCHING, SMELLING/SAVORING, TASTING, ENJOYING the CHEESE, Dr. Yoder. There's LOTS MORE of it--and lots more varieties of it to savor and enjoy.

  2. I have appreciated the opportunity to get to know Dr. Yoder in the past several years as he has served on my PhD committee. I have enjoyed visits about qualitative methodology, Blacksburg Virginia, and his philosophy related to Extension and graduate education. Thank you Dr. Yoder for serving on my committee. I look forward to calling you a mentor for many years to come. Thank you!