You can’t fit FFA in a box. And you can't fit ag teachers into one either.
Ag teachers aren't just imparting knowledge on grain farming or welding or raising livestock or public speaking or growing vegetables or wiring drones. They are helping young people figure out who they are and what they want to do in life.
How that looks is different all across the country, but the end result seems to be fairly consistent. Empowered young people that are a little bit closer to finding their dream. Through experiences outside the classroom and an investment in time beyond the school day, ag teachers are able to learn more about their students to try to figure out what makes them tick.
When I interview people in agriculture, they often share stories of how their ag teacher impacted their life. I know I will always be grateful for my ag teacher's dedication to helping me and three other teammates get down the road to judge livestock.
I remember Mr. Van Winkle clearly saying, "I may not be able to coach you, but I'll get you there." You see, he wasn't a livestock judge. And he'd be the first to tell you that. But he knew that the four of us had a passion and a little bit of talent, so he found a way to help us reach our goals. He even took us to Europe to compete.
Mr. Van Winkle invested hours upon hours driving us to workouts, contests and clinics. He didn't care how far it was or what it cost, he always found a way. At the end of the day, he believed in us. So we believed in ourselves, too.
As E.E. Cummings said, "Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit."
When I look back at what I learned in FFA, that is one thing I'll never forget. If you want something in life, with hard work and dedication, there's nothing you can't do. That confidence and belief in yourself is something you can’t learn from a book.
Now the table has turned. As a mother, having someone invest in my children like that means the world to me. The sacrifice their ag teacher makes hits home a little harder because time is more precious to me now as a parent. It’s not lost on our family when we see the time Mr. McCabe invests away from his kids to help our kids.
So, on National Teach Ag Day, I just want to say thanks to all the teachers who take the time to inspire, encourage and help the next generation of leaders find their way in the most noble industry in the world – agriculture.