Archive for Thursday, February 7, 2008

FFA is focus of teacher of the month

February 7, 2008

It's been said many times that teachers are busy people. If they aren't grading previous assignments, they're fine tuning lessons for the next day, week or month.

But to simply say Kristy Taylor busy is an understatement.

In the case of Eudora High School agricultural sciences teacher Taylor, who was selected as the Eudora Chamber of Commerce's Teacher of the Month for January, the second-year teacher also has jump-started Eudora High School's National Future Farmer's of America Organization. When asked what she does in her spare time, Taylor questions whether such a thing even exists for her.

"What do I do, other than school," she said. "I'm usually so busy because I'll have students studying for contests, and I'm constantly planning things. FFA is huge part of everything."

Likewise, Eudora High School Assistant Principal and the Eudora-De Soto Technical Education Center Director Ron Abel realizes the amount of work the 25-year-old 2006 graduate of Kansas State University is doing on top of what is expected of her.

"She's doing an excellent job," Abel said. "She's got a lot of energy, and she devotes a lot of time to both the preparation that she does for class and extra time that she's willing to give to kids outside of the school contract time. She's to be commended for that."

Taylor was overjoyed with the award.

"I couldn't believe it. I was shocked," she said. "With my personality, I was jumping off the roof. I was really excited."

Taylor, who grew up in the southern Missouri town of Miller, was inspired to teach by her agricultural sciences teacher in high school.

"I had decided before I even left high school that this is what I wanted to do," she said.

And though she didn't grow up on a farm, her participation in FFA coupled with the awards and travel that came along with it engendered a love of agricultural sciences.

"That's what I tell the kids now, because some of them think that you have to have a farming background," Taylor said. "They'll say to me, 'well, I'm not a farmer.' And I'll say to them, 'Do you think I am?'"

However, she did make sure that she got some experience within the agricultural industry while in college.

"I worked at a dairy farm and I worked at a grain farm to get some experience because I think that it's important to have a clue of what's going on," Taylor said.

Despite the mentions of dairy and grains, Taylor covers far more than just farms and farming.

She taught animal science last year. This year, she is teaching plant sciences and natural resources in mornings at the De Soto campus and introduction to agricultural science classes at Eudora.

"The introduction class is probably my favorite because we do get to hit on a lot of targets," Taylor said. "We do anything from parliamentary procedure to animal science, plant science, food science, dairy cattle and horticulture.

"It's very diversified. One of my biggest pet peeves is that people think this class is about farming and that's so far from the truth. We talk about it, but that's because they (the students) have to understand that's where it starts.

Taylor said she also teaches dissection, DNA extractions and focuses on other elements of biotechnology.

She looks forward to the completion of the new technology center that is part of the $45 million school bond if for no other reason than she'll be able to keep all of her supplies and student products in one place, rather than work out of two campuses.

"That's the way it is, and I don't complain about it because there's nothing I can do, but I see the light at the end of the tunnel," she said.

She currently is in the process of putting together plans to design a greenhouse, as the agricultural sciences program may transition to a horticulture program.

Taylor is proficient in the classroom and keeps her students engaged by having them work on several projects at once. But she puts just as much work into FFA activities.

She helps guide her students through FFA contests covering varied subjects such as meats, soil content, landscaping, floriculture, entomology, poultry and livestock.

Abel said the FFA program was absent for a few years leading up to Taylor's hiring as a result of a shortage of agricultural science teachers.

But in just under two years, participation in the organization has more than doubled, growing from 13 to 30 students since Taylor started.

"It's really hard for me to start small because I'm from such a booming FFA program so I want to do so much," she said.

Abel also is pleased with her work to get the program up and running.

"She's got greater enrollment than we had before," he said. "It's a lot of hard work and it takes a lot of outside class time, but she's willing to do that. Any support that we can give her, we're more than happy to give."

After attending a conference a few weeks ago with other agricultural science teachers, she heard some horror stories that made her even more thankful than she already was for the support that Abel and the rest of the school district allow her.

Another part of her support system is her boyfriend, Andrew Fishburn, who also is a substitute teacher and takes Taylor's class whenever she is gone.

"Thank goodness he's so great," she said. "He's helped me out so much. I don't know if I could've been this sane with out him helping me out."

Taylor now is looking forward to FFA week, which will be Feb. 19 through 22 throughout the Eudora School District.

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