Interest in the new agriculture education program and FFA chapter at Wayne High School has already drawn a number of students, and on Tuesday about 30 local farmers and agribusinessmen learned more about the new offerings during a special Farmers’ Breakfast.
The event, held at the Wayne Fire Hall, included presentations by Toni Rasmussen, recently hired as the new FFA advisor and ag education teacher; and Tony Cantrell, industrial technology teacher, as they talked with those in attendance about the school’s plans for introducing ag education in the upcoming 2017-18 school year.
The addition of the new agriculture education program is something that has been a couple of years in the making, according to Mark Lenihan, Wayne Community Schools superintendent.
“A couple of years ago, we had two teachers involved in technical skill and applied science, and when Dave Hix retired we had a couple of things to think about,” he said “There aren’t a lot of teachers who do the traditional shop type of programs; in fact, there are very few out there and there’s a big concern in the state that those programs are seeing a lot of retirements and not a lot of new people coming through.”
With more teaching graduates looking into agriculture-related instruction and the interest in starting an FFA chapter in Wayne, Lenihan said the school looked to begin an ag program, but weren’t going to settle for just anybody to start the program.
“The one thing we talked about was that whoever we bring in is a high-quality candidate and is someone we know will get this program started off well, he said. “We said if we couldn’t find somebody like that we were going to wait another year, because we really wanted someone like the person we found who we know is going to do a great job.”
Rasmussen comes to Wayne from the Boone County area. The UNL graduate outlined some of her goals for the new program and the new FFA chapter, and told those in attendance that she welcomes input for making the program a success here.
“Because it’s a new program, I’m open to whatever you think the kids should know,” she said. “The neat thing about this, there are different programs across the state are known for different things, Eustis-Farnam is known for meat judging and wins at state almost every year there, but I want Wayne to be known for having a good balance and giving students a good well-rounded experience.”
Rasmussen said she would like to incorporate input from business and industry in the Wayne area and help students recognize the impact agriculture has on the area.
“There are so many agribusinesses around here that students don’t realize are connected, and I want to get support that way. “I think there are a lot of opportunities for students to experience.”
The new FFA program will compete in a variety of events, from parliamentary procedures to livestock judging, and Rasmussen knows that success in those competitions will take time.
“One of Mr. Hanson’s favorite sayings is ‘The oak tree grows slow,’ so I know that it’s going to take time and I’m looking forward to (building the program),” she said.
Cantrell teachers a variety of industrial-related courses that will complement the ag education program, from small engine classes to welding and multimedia classes.
“We have between 12 and 16 kids in a class, which is great,” he said. “Kids at the high school will have a lot of different choices to choose from.”
Lenihan said the school district is lucky to have a seasoned veteran teacher like Cantrell working alongside Miss Rasmussen in her first job, saying that he’s confident the ag education program and new FFA chapter will get off to a good start this school year.
“I really believe we have some of the best career tech ed teachers around,” he said. “Mr. Cantrell has been here 14 years and has been great to have on staff, and with Miss Rasmussen, we are very fortunate to have found somebody who’s going to do a great job at getting the program started.”
Lenihan said some renovations are being completed for classroom and lab space that will be open for the coming school year.
“Within a week or two of the start of the school year, we’ll have that area open, and we have some backup classrooms ready until they’re open,” he added.