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SD Department of Education February 2015  
 

 

TEACHER FEATURE

Ag teacher wants all students to know value of CTE

Karen Roudabush is the agriculture teacher at Bridgewater-Emery High School. She says one year she was the only girl in her school’s FFA chapter because most of her female classmates assumed the program wouldn’t interest them. Now she strives to make sure all students know there’s a place for them in career and technical education.

When did you decide to become a teacher?
I just always loved the idea of being a teacher. My dad was an ag teacher and I saw how much he loved teaching and engaging with students. I don’t remember a time when I wanted to be something else.

What do you like most about teaching?
I like that no day is ever the same. I like the energy kids bring. They’re so inquisitive and excited.

Why is career and technical education important?
CTE is important because so often I’m able to help students make those connections from what they’re doing in other classes to what they might do in their future careers or just later today on the farm. It solidifies what they’re learning in other classes. I could say, here’s something you learned about in science, and now here’s an immediate application of it.

I love that CTE is real-life, hands-on and applicable to students’ lives now and in the future.

How has CTE changed since you were in high school?
I feel like CTE has a more positive connotation now. People see it as a way to gain valuable skills. I don’t know if that was always the case. I was the only girl in my FFA chapter one year, because everyone thought it was the shop class where you “just build stuff.”

What classes do you teach?
I teach a wide variety of classes: intro to ag; animal science; food and natural resources; wildlife and fisheries; ag sales and marketing; and plant science. I’ve also taught a companion animals class. With that one, I reached a whole different demographic. The students in that class were perhaps going to get a pet dog or cat or just wanted to learn more about animals. They didn’t necessarily want to learn about large animals like those that would be covered in my animal science class.

How do you get kids excited about the content?
One of the most important things is just getting to know students. As freshmen, students can take intro to ag. At the conclusion of that class, I like to sit down with them individually and talk about what they liked, what they didn’t like, so I can offer them guidance on classes to consider in the future.

Introducing students to the subject early is also valuable. I teach a six-week exploratory class for 7th and 8th grade students. The class covers a variety of ag topics. I lead mini labs and other fun activities to get them into the content.

Things can change quickly in CTE. How do you stay current?
I think it’s vital to network with other CTE teachers. I use the CTE teacher listserv, I attend the South Dakota Association of Career and Technical Education Summer Conference.

Right here at Bridgewater-Emery, I have a great relationship with Jean Clarke, our family and consumer sciences teacher. She and I have found, for example, that the ways we approach nutrition topics dovetail nicely. We also team up for classes to discuss the work of Temple Grandin from both the ag and human development perspectives.

How do you keep learning?
I am blessed to work for a school that values professional development. Our administrators take advantage of a lot of the opportunities provided to us—workshops, trainings, just checking out what other schools are doing.

There’s so much I don’t know, I’ve got to keep exploring.

 
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