Recharging Agricultural Education

Albany, NY- New York State Agricultural Education Outreach Staff, in partnership with the New York State Association of Agricultural Educators (NYAAE) Executive Council, New York State Education Department, the National Association of Agricultural Educators (NAAE), New York State Association for Career and Technical Education (NYSACTE) hosted their first joint professional development conference for agricultural educators and career and technical educators alike on June 28-29, 2016 at the Desmond Hotel and Conference Center in Albany, New York.

Agricultural Education Outreach Coordinator, Shari Lighthall stated, "We have worked hard to expose our teachers to different ways of thinking about agriculture, and to address the needs of our evolving agricultural and agri-science programs that align with the state’s curriculum requirements.”

This year’s conference was a year of firsts for many agricultural educators. Prior to the joint CTE conference in Albany, NYAAE took more than 80 educators on an urban agriculture tour of New York City. The group visited John Bowne High School and its 3.8 acre farm in Flushing; Brooklyn Grange – a roof top farm at the Navy Yard in Brooklyn; Hunts Point Terminal Market, one of the largest wholesale produce markets in the United States; Stephen Ritz and the Green Bronx Machine – a classroom in the South Bronx that exposes elementary students to hydroponics, alternative energy, and gardening; and, the Yonkers Science Barge that sits afloat in the Hudson River and provides school aged students and teachers with an off the grid take on agriculture.

Upon returning from New York City, the agricultural educators joined their colleagues from across the state in learning about Career and Technical Education in Albany. Teachers attended two full days of workshops where they learned about incorporating literacy into lessons, how to advocate for their program, what work based learning can bring to students, and more. Attendees also heard from NYAAE member and the 2014 ACTE Teacher of the Year Tara Berescik, NYS Education Department CTE Bureau Chief Eric Suhr, and, keynote speaker MaryEllen Elia, the Commissioner of NYS Education Department.

A highlight of the professional development conference is the annual awards banquet, where teaching professionals who have demonstrated exceptional teaching throughout their careers are recognized. Awards were presented to the New York State Winner in the areas of Outstanding New Teacher – Johanna Fox-Bossard, Hamilton; Outstanding Agricultural Education Teacher – Adam Krenning, Albion; Outstanding Middle/Secondary School Program – Dick Campany, Alexandria Bay; Agriscience Teacher of the Year – Jessica DeVries, Unadilla Valley; Teacher of Teachers – Betsy Foote, Greenwich; Teacher Turn the Key – Sheri Boardman, Fonda-Fultonville/Fort Plain; Outstanding Service Citation – Dick Campany, Alexandria Bay; Ideas Unlimited – Jessica Devries, Unadilla Valley; Lifetime Achievement – Patrick Hooker, Deputy Secretary for Agriculture and Markets; and, Mentor – Jeff Perry, Cornell University.

NYAAE President, Tina Miner-James explained, “Agricultural educators impact the lives of students in countless ways - the job is exhausting, but incredibly rewarding. Conferences like this allow us as educators to learn from each other, and recharge our love of agriculture and education as we head into the summer, and gear up for the upcoming school year.”

View images from this year's conference here.