In honor of Teach Ag Day, we’ve invited a few of the former Ag teachers we have on staff at the National FFA Center to tell us
what makes teaching Ag such a rewarding experience. Below are some thoughts from Jim Armbruster,Senior Relations Specialist.
During his career, Jim taught agricultural education in Marana and Yuma Arizona, spending 19 years as a classroom teacher. Jim earned his Bachelor of Science (1979) and Master of Science (1992) degrees at the University of Arizona.
Jim and Cindy have been married for 27 years, raising 4 children of their own and providing a safe home for four additional foster children. All of the children raised in the Armbruster family have been or are active members of the National FFA Organization, with the exception of his 5 year old granddaughter–she’s too young, unfortunately, but is off to a good start raising horses and hedge hogs of her own!
August of 1971, first day of high school for the class of “75”. A young timid freshman, with his schedule tucked deep in one pocket and a school binder with the map of the campus clamped tightly in his hand walked across the Triangle trying to find his classes.
Second hour, VO-AG 1, AG Room 1, Mr. Bernal. Ok where is the ag building? Upon finding AG Room 1, he was met in the doorway by Mr. Bernal. With a big smile, a firm handshake and a hearty welcome, the timid freshman was directed into the classroom. Mr. Bernal told all of us in the freshman class that we would learn to be leaders, we would learn how to impact communities, and most importantly, that this was our first step in finding a career in agriculture that would provide us with a fair wage and the ability to be productive citizens in our community. From second row third chair this timid freshman muttered, “yeah. that will be the day.”
A week later, Mr. Bernal posted an assignment on the black board, memorize and recite the FFA Creed. Our timid freshman again muttered under his breath, “No way will I stand up and speak in front of this class.” With Mr. Bernal’s coaching and one well- planned Supervised Agricultural Experience visit the young freshman found the courage to present the creed–memorization was not the problem, but the delivery was!
Our timid freshman found his voice, found the confidence to express himself, and recited the creed in front of his classmates. He went on to win the chapter creed speaking competition and represented his chapter at the district contest.
That was 41 one years ago and this once timid freshmen has not been quite so timid since. And it’s all because an agriculture teacher, saw something in me and made it his goal to see me succeed. This has made all the difference in my life.
Fast forward to August of 1975. I’m back in the role of a freshman, only this was at a Junior College. Again another agricultural education instructor, Mr. Cox, sat down with a small group of us. His comments were brief: “I believe that each of you have the ability to become outstanding agricultural education teachers,” he said. Whether it was a prediction or a premonition, to this day I do not know. But, out of that group of six individuals, three of us became agriculture teachers. One taught for only a couple of years, but the other two spent 18 and 19 years respectfully in the classroom. Both were recognized by their peers as successful, quality teachers who made a difference in the lives of their students every day, in every class. Mr. Cox was right.
As a classroom instructor, my goal was to provide every student the opportunity for success and to serve as role model by teaching, supporting, becoming part of these students lives. I had fun and enjoyed watching a student’s eyes light up when they finally “got it”. I loved watching a young person work to plan an SAE program and watching the pride in the eyes of the student’s parents as they walked across the banquet stage and were recognized for their achievement.
I also loved seeing the surprise on other teachers’ faces when a student who they had written off, became a school or chapter leader, or simply started passing classes because, thanks to the ag program’s hands-on approach to learning, they could see how they could apply the academic studies to real-world problems and situations. You see, agriculture teachers are teachers of young people first and subject matter second. Agricultural education teachers, provide students with a safe and inviting environment where they can take chances, where they can express their opinions and are where they are held accountable for their actions and for their education.
My success as a father, husband and teacher has been deeply effected by three teachers. The first was my dad, and coming in at a tie for second place are Mr. Bernal and Dr. Cox. Without these individuals and their influence I do not know where I would be today. Dad, Mr. Bernal, and Dr. Cox, thank you for being my teachers.