It is getting hard for public schools to find Ag. teachers, but the Centralia School District has three.
That was one of the takeaways from a speech given by Scott Stone, a 20-year
agriculture teacher and FFA advisor for Centralia High School.
Across the country, 94 schools have had to close down their agriculture departments, he said, because they could not find Ag. teachers.
So, Stone said to his 18-member audience at the Centralia Golf and Social Club, he felt very lucky when one of the district’s three Ag. teachers left, that he was able to recruit one. Kelsay Bruns, CHS class of 2015, to fill the slot.
“She’s one of my former students, so I guess I get to find out how good a teacher I am,” Stone said, smiling. The other Ag. teachers, Lori Lewis, and Stone are graduates of the University of Missouri, while Burns is finishing her degree at the Oklahoma State.
“She brings a different point of view to the table, which is important,” Stone said.
He said 45 percent of CHS’ students were enrolled in at least one Agriculture-related class.
“We want to expose our kids to as many areas of agriculture as possible,” Stone said as he described the CHS Ag. department’s style of educating. “So they can see what’s out there, see what they like and what they don’t like, and see have as many opportunities as possible.”
It is all built around three educational emphasis, he said: classroom work, SAE or supervised agricultural experience. ”The record keeping aspect of that is very important,” Stone said. “Profit and loss, and they do see some loss.”
The final part, which defines the department’s teaching style under Stone’s leadership, he said, are the FFA activities such as public speaking, judging and other competitions. One purpose, from Stone’s point of view: “Is to put the kids in positions that are learning, but a little uncomfortable and see them bloom.”
It is often, he said, “about building the small things in kids that turn them into the young-adults and grown-ups we are proud of.”
One example of that, Stone said was demonstrated at the recent Missouri State Fair.
“A Centralia student came up to our fair board president at the State Fair in thanked him for all the hard work, he and other board members put in” Stone said. “That type of thing makes an impression.”
He also mentioned the Centralia chapter won several grand championships as this year’s State Fair.”
Even if FFA students do not go on to be farmers, he said. “FFA helps individual develop strong character, learn life lessons and prepare for the future.”
When asked about the future, Stone cast it in terms of the Centralia FFA Chapter being picked as top in the state last year.
“We can’t stop,” he said. “We’ve got to keep progressing.”
For example, Stone said, future work for the chapter will include a continued focus on food insecurity. “At the state fair, our kids helped pack food boxes for food banks around the state.