NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Jessica Butz, agricultural educator at Elko High School, is one of a select group of agriculture teachers nationwide who received the 2017 Teachers Turn the Key professional development scholarship from the National Association of Agricultural Educators. As a scholarship recipient, Butz attended the NAAE annual convention in Nashville, Dec. 5-9.

The Teachers Turn the Key scholarship brings together agricultural educators with four or fewer years of experience and immerses them in three days of professional development that addresses issues specific to the early years of teaching agriculture.

Participants also have the opportunity to become involved in NAAE leadership and network with other convention attendees. TTTK awardees come away from the experience with a long-lasting peer cohort and tools that will help them have successful careers as agricultural educators.

Butz added diversity to a traditional animal science and welding program through development of a floral design department. The class advertises arrangements available for order in their newsletter “Design of the Month.” Butz also uses an inquiry-based model of instruction, and assesses students through their student projects instead of by traditional exams.

Butz supports students in a variety of ways in their supervised agricultural experiences. SAEs are independent student projects that combine academic and workplace skills, preparing students for occupations or college. One student applied for and received a Food for All Grant from the National FFA Foundation that allowed him to produce trout that he sells locally. Butz focuses on individual student record, giving them skills that will translate directly into a future career or their own business.

Communication with FFA members, students and the community is key for Butz. She produces a weekly newsletter with chapter happenings, but receives more feedback through the chapter’s Instagram account. Many followers are community members who stay informed of chapter events and accomplishments through the social media platform.

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“I may only have a student take one agriculture class from me but I strive to make that class something they will remember in the future…,” said Butz. “I have high expectations for my students and make them responsible for their own learning. By ensuring a quality education in my classroom, I am confident that my teachings will go beyond just my students.”

In addition to attending professional development, each of the TTTK scholarship recipients was also recognized at a general session during the convention. RAM Trucks sponsors the TTTK program as a special project of the National FFA Foundation.

NAAE is the professional organization in the United States for agricultural educators. It provides its’ more than 8,000 members with professional networking and development opportunities, professional liability coverage, and extensive awards and recognition programs. The mission of NAAE is “professionals providing agricultural education for the global community through visionary leadership, advocacy and service.” The NAAE headquarters are in Lexington, Kentucky.

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