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Forsyth, Georgia
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August 7, 2019     The Monroe County Reporter
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August 7, 2019
 

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Page 8B August 7, 2019 Ri l orter By Diane Glidewell news@mymcr.nef Skyler Alexander is One of the new teachers who wel- comed students to Monroe County dassrooms as the 2019-20 school year started on Aug. 2. Like a number of others, she is a new college graduate and is excited to be starting her teaching career. But Skyler's position is new this year and the story of her new job and how she became qualified for it has some interesting Monroe County connections. Skyler is teaching agri- culture classes to 6th, 7th and 8th graders at Monroe County Middle School. She will give her students a basic knowledge of plants, wildlife, forestry and other aspects of agriculture and will advise the middle school FFA Club. Mary Persons has offered agriculture classes for many years. Bill Waldrep's dasses became so popular there was a waiting list for students who wanted to take them, and some of Mary Persons' top students named his classes as favorites even though they weren't following careers in agriculture. The continuing success Mary Persons FFA had in competitions brought more notoriety to the Mary Persons agriculture program. ABAC alum Skyler Alexan- der will be teaching agri- culture classes to middle schoolers in 2019-20. A few years ago, Mon- roe County Schools hired Ryan White to split his time between teaching agriculture classes at Mary Persons and before Johnson got to ABAC. UGA and became a profes- starting a program, indud- He turned over to Johnson sor at ABAC. He didn't have ing FFA, at Monroe County the task of getting it approved experience with agriculture; Middle School. By last year by the state university system he brought the education part the interest in the classes had and by federal standards for of the package to developing grown so that Superintendent teaching certification,the AgEd degree. Many of the Dr. Mike Hickman asked "It's been a long process" ag education teachers have the school board to approve said Johnson. "We graduated been teaching without certi- an additional agriculture our first cohort this spring." ficatlon because of the lack of teacher so that White can Johnson said of the 26 programs to train them. teach at Mary Persons full students in the program, all Johnson said with the push time and there can be a full 24 who wanted to teach were to move ag education to the time teacher at the middle quickly hired. The other two elementary school level, the school to introduce students opted for other agriculture need for trained teachers to agriculture classes, jobs. He said about half are in the field is set to increase The board approved the teaching in South Georgia, even more. Many elementary position and subsequently a quarter in Central Georgia schools are piloting agricul- hired Skyler. The interest in and a quarter in Atlanta. ture programs that spring agriculture and the growing There are now about 200from their existing STEM career opportunities it offers students in the ag education programs. (The popular has exploded throughout major at ABAC with about 25 hydroponetics lab/garden at Georgia. Hickman came to set to graduate next year from Hubbard Elementary and the the board and asked that the the four-year program, location of Monroe County's school system be allowed to ' gricultural Education has new Ag Science building be- hire someone for the job as been understaffed for years in tween the middle school and soon as possible because the the state, but in the first year T.G. Scott Elementary seem demand for ag teachers is out- of the program, ABAC has to foreshadow elementary pacing the supply of qualified become the largest producer agriculture classes in Monroe graduates in the state, of AgEd students east of the County in the near future.) That fact was something Dr. Mississippi" said Johnson. Johnson said one reason Mark Johnson, now Direc- He said the first cohort was ABAC's program is so suc- tor of Faculty Development a good crop of students and cessful is that the school has and the Center for Teaching Skyler was among the best. a long time reputation for a and Learning at Abraham "She relates well to people," quality, affordable agriculture Baldwin Agricultural College he said. "She'll do well/' program. Another reason is in Tifton, realized a few years He was glad that she isthat many of the agriculture ago. He said that while inter- teaching in Monroe County teachers around Georgia have est in agriculture education because he taught at Monroe connections with ABAC. Also has been boomln8 in the Academy for five ),ear~ ~nd me "~,ishbor waiver" allox~-8 state and there were about made a lot of friends in the students from other states, 60 job openings for agricul- area. From 2003-08 Johnson especially Tennessee, Florida ture teachers last year, there taught social studies, coached and Alabama, to come into was an average of only 18 high school and middle the program. graduates in the field annually school football, baseball and Not having a background in over the past five years. Only golf and started the wrestling agriculture himself, Johnson two institutions in the state, program at Monroe Academy. said he has been fascinated by University of Georgia and Johnson grew up in the how much the students like Fort Valley State University, Tifton area, graduated from their agriculture classes. He is offered a major in ag educa- Tift County High School, using his observations in his tion, and Fort Valley awarded attended Georgia Military present position as he teaches only a couple of degrees in College, earned degrees in faculty how to teach students the field each year. philosophy and psychology to become teachers. Johnson said ABAC Presi- at University of Georgia, He said that getting the ag- dent David Bridges saw the taught in South Georgia, riculture education program need and started the process then Forsyth, then Athens. at ABAC in place was an of developing the major He earned his doctorate at enormous amount of work and much of it was done by others, like professors Frank Flanders and Sallie McHugh. Johnson said they probably would have decided they couldn't do it ffthey had realized all that would be involved, but since they didn't know they couldn't do it, they got it done. We see the product, and it' pretty awesome," he said. ' Slo/ler, who is from Hous- ' ton County, described her : experience in the program as, amazing. She said she always : wanted to be a teacher but did not find an interest in agri- : culture until she got involved, in FFA after she started high ', school. She attended Gov, ' ernor's Honors Program in ' i Ag-Science and realized how: many students have little knowledge of agriculture. , She said she grew up hunt- ing and fishing with her dad but didn't know much about other aspects of agriculture : until she got into high school. FFA gave her a chance to develop speaking skills and become more articulate. She said her students at Monroe County Middle School are going to love learning about using drones in agriculture, land judg- mS, checking on weeds and pesticides, tractors that drive themselves and planters that " set seeds. ' kBAC gave me a lot of freedom to adapt to myself and the students" said Skyler. 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