uring last week’s FFA state convention, Rock Valley Community School District’s Micah Weber was named as Iowa’s outstanding agriculture educator of the year.
Weber was selected out of seven finalists from across the state as the 2021-22 Golden Owl Award winner. Sponsored by the Iowa FFA Foundation, Nationwide Insurance and other stakeholders, this annual award recognizes excellence in agriculture education and promotes the importance of the field. As this year’s awardee, Weber received a $3,000 grand prize and the Golden Owl trophy.
With 20 years of teaching experience, Weber serves as a valuable resource to his students in grades 7-12. He firmly believes in developing strong relationships in his classes and keeping an open mind. Staff from the Iowa Department of Education caught up with him after the award ceremony to get more of his thoughts on teaching and being named the agriculture educator of the year.
Congratulations! How does it feel to be named Iowa’s outstanding agriculture educator of the year?
I guess it hasn’t fully sunk in yet. It is very honoring and humbling. There are a lot of good ag teachers out there, so being able to represent them is very cool.
Why is agriculture education important for our students? How does it help strengthen Iowa’s future workforce?
Agriculture education is important because of the diversity of activities that are offered. There are so many opportunities for students to become more specialized in a certain area and apply what they’ve learned to their careers. These include both technical skills in agriculture and soft skills that can be applied to any job. These kids are our future, the next generation. They will work in industries, become business owners and guide us into the future. Their development will help us all down the road.
Involvement in FFA, career and technical education programs and work-based learning can provide valuable hands-on learning for today’s students. Have you found these things important to your work as an agriculture educator?
I believe in the three-circle model: classroom learning, supervised agricultural experiences (SAE) and FFA activities. I feel like agriculture education needs to do a good job in all three of those areas. Having content in the classroom – but also adding in FFA activities and application in the workplace – can strengthen a student’s abilities. Workplace experiences such as entrepreneurship, research or onsite placement can help them explore different options.
What opportunities do you see in the next few years in agriculture education?
I think ag education continues to evolve. As a state, we’ve done a good job not only in the production side of agriculture but also in the areas that support it, such as machinery, marketing, sales and sharing our story. How we relay our story and how agriculture is connected to many aspects in Iowa is continuing to develop. We continue to look for opportunities to partner on that story development, too.
What qualities are important for a good agriculture teacher to have? What is the most rewarding part of being an agriculture educator?
The qualities that I think are important are being able to relate with students and developing relationships. You need to figure out what the students’ needs are, be caring and willing to take risks. It’s important to know that some of our best opportunities for learning come from events that didn’t go well or didn’t go as planned. Being able to take risks and putting yourself out there for your students can help you build those relationships.
The most rewarding part of being an ag educator is when a student finally gets it. The lightbulb aha moment is great. When they get a little bit of success, it can help them realize they want to do more and continue to learn new things. As an educator, I get to help them figure out what that success could be and build on that so they can become better and more skilled.
Why should a teacher consider going into agriculture education? What advice would you share with them?
The reason I love being an ag teacher is because no two days are ever the same. No two classes, no two years are repetitive. The way you teach the content will change with the students, which keeps it challenging. It is exciting to individualize your classes to your students, help them improve and see them grow.
My advice for all ag teachers is don’t try to do it all at once. It can be easy to get hung up on the content, but it is more important to build those relationships with your students. The content and the rest will happen on its own. The buy-in and learning is always easier when those relationships are there.
Congratulations to Micah Weber on being named Iowa’s 2021-22 Golden Owl Award winner!