Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Agricultural Education Teachers: My CTE Superheroes

As I saw them walk into the funeral home my heavy heart lifted, it was one of those moments in the midst of grief that I will remember forever. You see my dad is an agricultural education teacher, and as some of his students walked into the funeral home wearing their blue corduroy jackets and official dress, I couldn't help but smile and take pride in the actions of members in an organization that I have been part of. This action brightened my day, and it is one of the first things that comes to mind when I think of the relationships ag. teachers have with their students.

* * *

I had the unique experience of growing up with several ag. teachers in my life. Mr. Lierz at Jackson Heights High School was my ag. teacher. My dad, who teaches agricultural education at Rock Creek Junior and Senior High School, was my second ag. teacher, and my grandfather even taught vocational agriculture back in the day.

Among each of these ag. teachers who played a significant role in my life as well as the agricultural educators that I continue to meet, I see some common traits. These special people are not just teachers who educate others about agriculture; they are also connectors who help students connect other skills they have learned in school with “real life” application. These special people are not just agriculture educators; they are life educators. They are in the unique position where they can let students know hats will be taken off when you enter a building as a sign of respect, and they can let students know the importance of a firm handshake and eye contact when meeting new people. These special people are not just “paid professionals” from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm; they are community volunteers oftentimes from 4:00 pm to 8:00 am.

Most importantly though these special people are not just teachers and role models; they are people who truly care and get to know students. They work with students who love school and those who don't. Furthermore, they work with students who are involved in every activity taking place at the school, and students who have their one passion in agriculture education and FFA. These special people are the ones who can take well behaved students and not so well behaved students on a school trip and be assured that there will not be any problems. In addition, these teachers are the ones who can go beyond school and truly see what students are like on long trips with lots of sleep, with little sleep, with lots of sugar and caffeine, and with very little sugar and caffeine.

My dad, like many ag. teachers, knows his students so well that when my grandfather passed away this last fall, his students drove 60 miles to stand in their blue corduroy jackets at the funeral of a man they barely knew because he taught my dad right. My grandfather taught their ag. teacher, “People don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

* * *

The relationship and teaching an ag. teacher provides goes so much deeper than just the typical knowledge that a student gains from being part of a class or an organization.

For this reason my CTE Superheroes are agriculture education teachers like my dad!!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Leadership: A Lesson from the Geese

Have you ever tried to define leadership?
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There have been times in my life when I thought that I could define leadership pretty well, or I could point out an example of a leader. I was very shocked then when my definition of leadership was turned completely around during this last semester. It all started something like this…
I was working on a timed group project with a group of classmates. When the facilitator instructed us to begin, my group took off and raced about trying to finish our task quickly. It was fantastic that there were a bunch of leaders in my group, but as we continued to go on with our task this turned out to be a bit of a problem. Whenever one leader would try to speak, five other leaders would either be talking at the same time or immediately agreeing or disagreeing with what the first leader said. At the end of our allotted time, my group had failed miserably. We did finish our task, but we might as well have hired preschool students to create the finished product that we came up with.
Upon reflecting on this experience I realized that even though we had a group of tremendous leaders, we failed because no one was willing to follow. It was like the quote, “A leader without true followers, is simply going on a walk.” Instead of following the leader, we had created a skirmish line that couldn’t decide where we were going. Following this reflection my group had the opportunity to redo our project, but it took us twice as long to tear down, start over, and finish our project. Throughout the rest of the semester we worked on being good leaders and good followers, and we were able to improve in this area quite a bit and accomplish even bigger projects than our first one was.
* * *
Due to this experience my definition of leadership totally changed. As a flock of geese flew overhead one day, I realized that my definition of a leader was: being the front goose leading the rest of the flock. My definition changed then to what geese already knew about leadership.
When geese fly overhead they seem to be changing positions all the time. After flying in the front for a while, the lead goose will drop back into formation and another goose will take their place. When a goose is rested up and strong they lead the flock, but when another goose is rested up and ready to lead, it is their turn. When a goose drops back into formation it doesn’t just quit flying. They keep flying and refine their strengths for the next time they get to lead, and while they are doing this in the midst of the flock, there are other geese flying behind them. Even if a goose is in the middle of the flock and following the lead goose, the other geese can follow the middle goose.
* * *
This is my definition of leadership: being willing to lead when your strengths are needed and being willing to follow when someone else has a strength that is needed.
Or simply put my definition of leadership is: Lead like a goose!
* * *
As FFA leaders, how can we play to the strengths of our chapters in order to keep our flock headed in the right direction?
Brian Tracy encourages us to, “Become the kind of leader that people would follow voluntarily; even if you had no title or position.” - How can we help lead our FFA chapters even if we might not necessarily be the lead goose?

What is your definition of leadership?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


Kansas Farmer

“Cody, you're a Missouri Hillbilly,” my grandpa said.

I was visiting my mother's family in Missouri, and my grandpa reasoned that because my mom grew up in Missouri, I was a Missouri Hillbilly. I thought about this just briefly before responding. “No Grandpa, I'm a Kansas Farmer!” This “argument” went on until I was about to leave my grandparent's that night. My grandpa and I compromised. We decided that whenever I crossed the Missouri River I became a Missouri Hillbilly for the time that I was in Missouri, but whenever my family crossed back into Kansas, I became a Kansas Farmer for the time I was there.

That night as a four year old kid, I stayed awake until about midnight when my family crossed the Missouri river again, and I became a Kansas Farmer!

As I four year old I was excited to become a Kansas Farmer. I found my drive and inspiration for becoming a Kansas Farmer by watching my grandfather. I was always excited to help Grandpa feed cows, start combining corn, or run the skid steer. As I got older there was always a piece of me that held onto the dream of following my Grandpa and becoming a Kansas Farmer. I was inspired to be like my grandfather, a hardworking man who wouldn't always say a lot, but who spoke more with his actions than many people can say in a lifetime of words. I was inspired to be like my grandfather who without hesitating would let his grandsons borrow his mower when theirs was broken, even though there was a good chance his mower would need repairs when they were done with it. I was inspired to be like my grandfather who served his family and friends and would drop whatever he was doing in a heartbeat to do so.

That's What I Want To Be Part Of...
There has always been something about agriculture and rural life that I loved and wanted to be part of. I am inspired by the the way life on a farm teaches people the values of hard work and never giving up, and that's what I want to be part of. I am inspired by the way people in a rural community care for each other, and that's what I want to be part of. I am inspired by the spirit that allows a neighbor to drive just a couple minutes to get to your house, but take an hour to get back home. That is what I want to be part of. I am inspired by the space children have to run around, grow, and learn values, and that is what I want to be part of. I am inspired by the faith it takes to plant a seed in the ground and know that it will come up and you will be taken care of, and that is what I want to be part of. I am inspired by FFA and the way it challenges members to ignite their premier leadership, personal growth, and career success; that is what I want to be part of.

What inspires you?

What do you want to be part of?

Thursday, August 15, 2013


I really enjoy reading the book With You All The Way by Max Lucado.

In this book a prince sets up a quest for three knights who want to marry a princess. The knights have to prove that they are worthy by traveling through a dreadful forest and making it to the king's castle. This forest is dark, dreary, and filled with hopenots, creatures who make traveling through the forest miserable. The strongest knight asks if they can take anyone with them, to which the prince responds that they may take one companion with them. The fastest knight asks how they will find their way through the forest. The prince pulls out a flute, plays a song, and explains that the king will play the exact same song three times a day and this will help lead the knights to the king's castle. The wisest knight asks if the king and the prince will play the exact same song and if their flutes are identical. The prince replies that the songs are the same and the king and the prince play identical flutes. The next day the knights and their companions set off into the forest. After a great deal of time passes the servants at the king's castle see two men come walking out of the forest, so they clean them up and have a grand feast that night. During the feast the king plays his song one last time, and … the wisest knight walks into the room. The wisest knight explains that their trip was difficult. The hopenots stole their horses, but they kept going. The hopenots attacked them, but they fought back. The trickiest thing the hopenots did though, was whenever the king played his song, hundreds of hopenots would mimic it on their own flutes. The wisest knight explained that he made it through the forest because he chose the right companion. The wisest knight made it through the forest with … the prince by his side. This way he could always hear the kings song because it was with him all the way.


Just like these three knights we often set off on quests of many different types, and just like these knights we often run into dreadful hopenots who steal our horses, attack us, and mimic the song telling us which way to go. In the moments when we encounter these dreadful places in the forest it is very important that we have the right companions traveling with us.

Throughout these last 19 years of my life I have traveled life's forest with some amazing companions and received incredible support from them. I have been able to walk alongside my Savior, family, friends, neighbors, ministers, teachers, and countless other people.

Throughout this next year I am looking forward to the quest I have set out on as a State FFA Officer, and continuing to travel with many of my old companions as well as new ones, including my teammates and FFA members across the state of Kansas.

What companions are you traveling through this forest with?

My family: front row, l-r, Drew, Silas, Dad (David), Mom
(Kelly), Kade, Brady. Back row, l-r, Jacey, Cody, Jeremy, Seth.
My officer team: front row, l-r, Chance, Daryl, Cody.
          Back row, l-r, Carrie, Elizabeth, Lindy.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Man on the Moon

              Lately I have had the opportunity to travel a lot and it just so happens I have spent some time here and there on the road after dark. Recently, as I was driving back to Manhattan one evening, I noticed the full moon in the sky and thought about how beautiful it is. With my mind wondering off, like it does best, I begin to think about Neil Armstrong being the first man to step foot on the moon. What an honor this must have been for him. The moon that we see in the sky every single night, he was able to leave his footprints on. Although others have left theirs as well, he was the first, the first person in the world to step onto the moon. How incredible that day in July of 1969 must have been!

                Neil Armstrong was a pioneer. He represented the entire human race. The really interesting thing is not that he was the first to reach a destination or he got the opportunity to represent millions of people, but instead, how he represented. When he landed on the moon there were many things he could have said and did. He could have said, “This step is for the world and this giant leap is for Neil.” He also could have ran around doing flips and cartwheels and then said, “Oh and by the way, this step is for man.” However he did none of that. In his firsts steps he said, “One small step for man and one giant leap for mankind.” The fact that he used his first steps for the symbolism he created, shows how thankful and honored he was. With the words chosen, he showed selflessness. It was incredibly humble of him to credit everyone and not keep all the glory for himself. The way that Neil Armstrong represented all of mankind on that day truly was admirable.

                Thinking of this, it is easy to reflect back on our own lives and ask ourselves a few questions. How are we representing? Are my words and actions pleasing and admirable to others? If I was in Neil Armstrong’s shoes, what would my words have been? You see, everyone represents something. The real question is, are we representing in a noble way; one that is humble and honorable? If you would like to join me in setting a new goal, it is to represent the way Neil Armstrong did. He was a very respectable man and there is a good lesson to be learned from him. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Don't Fight the Bottle

For the last six weeks, I have had the opportunity to work and the KSU Dairy Unit and I absolutely love it. Being outside, working with cows makes me feel alive in some strange way. I spend a lot of my time there taking care of the calves, which is more work than it seems. Each day you have to pick up their feed buckets, record how much they ate, determine what to feed them that day, wash their buckets and then put them back out to each calf. Twice a day we bottle feed them and every other day we put fresh hay in each of their individual hutches. 

A couple days ago I was working with one of the new born calves, trying to teach it how to drink from a bottle, when I realized that it is A LOT of work to make sure these small animals grow up healthy. It takes so much time devoted by workers and more patients than you think you have when that baby calf is pushing against you and fighting the bottle. This is kind of embarrassing, but that day I was incredibly frustrated and I started to yell at the calf. I said, “Quit fighting me! Don’t you know that you need this and it is going to help you!”

In that very instance I had a thought. In a way, we are all just baby calves. We all have workers that invest in us and devote so much of their time to us. Why? To make sure that we, the small animals, grow up “healthy.” So many times we fight the person that is trying to teach us or give us something we need. I don’t know why this is our immediate reaction, maybe it is just our nature. What I do know is if those calves didn’t get that milk every day, they wouldn’t be able to fully grow up into what they can be.
As we grow older we will always have someone investing in us. It may not be in the same way or at the same rate, but we will have someone. My challenge to you is next time you have a parent, advisor, friend, teacher, coach or mentor listen to you and give you advice, don’t immediately shut them down, but instead keep an open mind and thank them for all they do for you. Believe it or not, there are more people than you think out there that want to see you succeed. Be thankful that you have them and always think twice before you fight the bottle.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Are Chameleons bad?

Are Chameleons bad?

                Over Christmas break I spent a lot of time with one of my really good friends as we caught up on each other’s lives. After telling me new things in his life, I told him stories from school, new friends I made and different programs I was involved in. We then started talking about my future plans, which is not my favorite subject for the time being. You see, I have been having a lot of trouble with making decisions lately. When I am faced with a choice I like to take all things into account and one aspect that really has a tremendous amount of pull is my relationships with other people. So, as I am telling my friend about two awesome opportunities I have to choose between, I am also expressing my mixed feelings. The majority of these mixed feelings come from how my relationships with close friends will change based on my decision. As we are deep into this conversation and my stress level is at an all-time high, my friend stops me and says, “Kayla, the reason you are having so much trouble with this decision is because you have such a wide variety of friends and that is because you have multiple personalities. You are a chameleon and you change with the group of people you are around.” Ok just to give you some insight, the decision I have to make involves me doing two COMPLETELY different things. Therefore, the types of people my decision will affect are from opposite ends of the spectrum. So my friend had a point. He is right when he says I have a wide variety of friends and he’s right when he says that I change around different people. As much as I hate to admit it, I am a chameleon, but is that necessarily a bad thing? I think chameleons get such a bad reputation when really it just might be a good thing. I mean, who decided it was a bad thing to switch your topic of conversation as you switch from friend to friend. Let’s be real. Do you think my very preppy girl friends who love to shop really want to hear about how I got to pull a calf this morning? No. However, that doesn’t mean I won’t throw some ag facts at them every once in a while. What about my guy friends? Do you really think they care about how I bought a new dress last week that was 40% off? That’s probably a no as well. So yes, I may change conversations with friends, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Being that this was one of my closest friends that told me I was a chameleon, I really started putting more thought into this. I looked for other things I changed around certain people. Clothes. Yes I changed my style a little bit, but not because of the people, but more so the settings I was in with those people. I am not going to wear my coveralls and mud boots to work out in, my cut off and shorts to church and my dress out to the farm. That is ridiculous; therefore I have to change out fits around different people. Finally, the last way I realized I change around people is how I act. This is probably the most distinct difference, because around one group of people I am incredibly loud and funny and around another group I am much more reserved.  The difference is the type of people I am with. If I am with very professional people having dinner, I am more composed however; if I am with my best friend in private I will cut up, make jokes and be crazy loud. All in all, I have realized that I am a complete chameleon, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. I see it as knowing when to have fun and knowing when to do business. I’m not trying to fit in and be parts of groups I don’t belong in. I am just expressing every side of myself. Being a very well-rounded individual I have a lot of different dimensions to me. I don’t come in just one style, topic or demeanor. I am changing and growing on a daily basis which means the complexity of who I am is growing as well. Being myself is so much more than one day, one setting, one outfit or one conversation topic. Therefore I am proud to say that I am a chameleon and I do not see anything wrong with it.