[ACEL]: Hi Nicole! Why did you choose to major in Agriscience Education?
Growing up, I knew I always wanted to be a teacher. Helping teachers organize their classroom, grade papers, and even help to teach throughout elementary, middle, and high school was always a highlight of my school day. I would even play school with my friends and cousins on weekends and holidays where I was always the teacher and had binders full of worksheets to teach with. In middle school, I discovered how much I loved solving equations and was therefore set on going to BGSU and becoming a math teacher. But my life and career path changed when I stepped foot into my high school ag room. I had always been a member of 4-H, but my passion for agriculture was set on fire and I just couldn’t get enough of learning new things, trying new CDEs, and attending FFA activities. My agricultural educator was a prime example of an educator, mentor, and motivator. He pushed me to memorize the FFA Creed, learn parliamentary procedure, become an officer, and do so much more in the FFA that made me the person I am today. Year after year at State and National Conventions, he would always make me go to the Ohio State Booths and introduce me to everyone there, telling them I would go to OSU even though I kept saying I was going to BGSU. Unfortunately, my senior year brought some unexpected changes when I got the call from the superintendent that my ag teacher was in a fatal accident a couple hours ago. As chapter president, I took charge and my career path changed. I discovered my passion and dedication to agriculture was stronger than I ever realized and that ag teachers aren’t just teachers, but a huge impact in the students’ lives. Mr. Robert Hoffman was right, I wanted to do what he had always done for us: challenge us to change into the best version of us that we could be. I wanted to share my passion of agriculture, but also help to shape young adults into leaders and achievers. I wanted to give back to what had transformed me: Agricultural Education and the FFA.
Why did you choose to attend The Ohio State University?
Once I knew that Agricultural Education was the major for me, there was no other choice in my mind. The Ohio State University was the only place for me. My older brothers were both students at The Ohio State University and I saw first-hand the experiences they had, the people and connections they made, and the quality of education they both received.
How did your education at Ohio State influence your choice of career or your career path?
I always knew that teaching was what I wanted to do and my education at Ohio State reinforced my desire. Through my involvement in student organizations, wide range of agricultural classes, and the faculty and staff at Ohio State, I was able to prepare myself for the classroom. After my Early Field Experience, BLOCK, and Student Teaching, I was excited to teach!
What were you involved in as an Ohio State student (student organizations, honoraries, campus jobs, Greek life, etc.):
As an Ohio State student, I took full advantage of getting involved. Through connections that my brothers had made at OSU, I was able to begin my involvement already at orientation when I was trained for the student assistant for CFAES Human Resources & Fiscal Departments in the Dean’s Office and continued in that position until graduation from OSU. Just about any night of the week, you could find me at a student organization meeting. I began my involvement with the Agricultural Education Society, Collegiate 4-H, and being on OSU Holiday High School Visitor. By spring of my Freshman year, I was a CFAES Ambassador, on the Scarlet & Gray Ag Day Planning Committee, CFAES Banquet Steering Committee, and Committee of 88. Throughout all these organizations I led in various ways such as president, vice president, co-chairs, treasurer, and committee chairs. I was honored to be elected as the OSU Undergraduate Student Government Senator for CFAES at the end of my Sophomore year and became a part of The Ohio State University Senate under the lead of President Gee. In addition, I served on the CFAES Student Council, CFAES Advancement Team, Student Panel for CFAES Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs Search and ACEL Department Chair Search, CFAES Top 20 Seniors Selection Panel, and more in the College of Food, Agricultural, & Environmental Science. I began professional development at OSU by attending Cultural Competency Seminars, Ohio Soybean Industry Tour, Ohio Agri-Business Tour, Scinece Inquiry Based Teaching Institute, and Professional Development Nights. I was also inducted into the Towers Agricultural Honorary and the Gamma Sigma Delta International Agricultural Honorary. I was recognized as a CFAES Top 20 Senior and an OSU Top 20 Outstanding Senior because of my overall involvement at The Ohio State University.
What classes did you enjoy the most while at Ohio State? What was your favorite and why?
I truly enjoyed the majority of my classes while at Ohio State, but my favorites were: BLOCK classes and trips to FFA Camp and Pennsylvania, food science and processing, welding, construction, public speaking, teaching methods, animal sciences, chocolate science, cultural competencies, and history of OSU.
What professor, faculty or staff member had an impact on your education/career? How?
All the people at Ohio State had an influence, but Dr. M. Susie Whittington had the biggest impact on my education and career. She immediately made me feel welcomed to the ACEL family and took a special interest in me, my family, and my passion and desires. Not only did she influence me in the classroom, but also as the advisor of Agricultural Education Society. Her strong passion and excitement was always shining and contagious. She was also the reason why I got involved with undergraduate research focusing on cultural proficiency and did several presentations including the North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture Conference, CFAES Research Forum, OSU Denman Undergraduate Research Forum, Annual National Urban Education Institute, and published by Annual National Agricultural Education Research Conference. As a result, I was also able to graduate with Research Distinction on my diploma. Dr. Whittington was and still always there for advice and guidance. It’s the little things that make her such an impact on my career whether it’s a hug and asking about life or sending a text to say happy birthday. She has been a great role model as a leader in agricultural education and The Ohio State University.
What is your favorite memory related to your time at Ohio State?
So many memories flow through my mind as a student at The Ohio State University- leading student organizations, organizing Scarlet & Gray Ag Day, going to mirror lake jump with the ACEL Department Chair, the discipline lab for Methods class, welding class, helping others choose OSU as a college ambassador, going to President Gee’s house for an Undergraduate Student Government social- but my favorite memory overall would have to be when I found out I was selected as a Top 20 Outstanding Senior for The Ohio State University. This came as a complete surprise to me as I had always worked for a cause, not applause. I was doing what I loved and having a blast doing so; it wasn’t about winning an award. I was blessed with this honor to be recognized for all the hard work and dedication I had given to my classes, research, and student organizations as well as my love for The Ohio State University.
What was your first job following your education at Ohio State? Following my education at Ohio State, I began my teaching career at Riverdale Local Schools in Mt. Blanchard, OH.
For what schools, companies and/or organizations have you worked throughout your career?
Following graduation from OSU, I was blessed to serve on the CFAES Alumni Society Board for three years. I have continued my career with Riverdale Local Schools where I have taught courses including: Introduction to Agriculture; Agriculture, Food, & Natural Resources; Livestock Science; Plant & Animal Science; Ag Business Management; Mechanical Principles; Science & Technology of Food; Ag Communications & Leadership; and FFA Officer Capstone. In 2014, I implemented a middle school program. I have also served as the District Membership Chair since 2014. Furthermore, I have served as the Riverdale Education Association Treasurer and currently as Co-President. In 2016, I began work as the Hancock County Junior Fair Coordinator and Junior Fair Board Advisor in addition to teaching at Riverdale.
During your career, have you received any awards or honors? If so, what are those?
I’ve been blessed to be nominated by students and teachers to be recognized as the Teacher of the Week several times at Riverdale. Last spring, I was also nominated by a few students for the Hancock County Golden Apple Award. This award is designed to recognize the best of the best teachers in Hancock County. I have been selected as one of three finalists in the high school division and the winner will be announced on October 18.
As of today, what is your favorite career highlight?
I’ve worked with great students, earning 15 American Degrees and 25 State Degrees. We’ve been a recipient of several grants including: Food for Thought, Monsanto Growing Rural Education, National FFA Living to Serve, Syngenta Blue Jacket & Chapter, and others. I’ve seen students grow and realize they are a part of something bigger than themselves while at State Convention, FFA Camp, Washington Leadership Conference, or National Convention. We’ve had several state CDE teams including Parliamentary Procedure, Ag Power Diagnostics, and Food Science. I’ve been able to work with two OSU students for their Early Field Experience. I’ve experienced Washington Leadership Conference with agricultural educators from all over the nation. I’ve attended great professional development workshops. But most importantly, is the reward of seeing growth in my students. Knowing that “my kids” are stepping out of their comfort zone to change themselves, their school, and their communities is such an incentive to keep doing what I’m doing. I love helping students realize their passion for agriculture and choosing a career in agriculture. The biggest highlight was seeing “my first babies” grow from freshmen to seniors, graduate, and now some of them in agricultural careers or pursing degrees in agriculture, even agricultural education!
What advice would you give to a current student?
My best advice to current students is to “Live the Dash” – truly live that little line between your year of birth to year of death and to live each day to the fullest. Keep learning, make mistakes, get involved, challenge yourself, try new things, never regret, and don’t take any day for granted. The experiences you have at OSU and the people you meet at OSU will change your life.
What did ACEL cultivate in you? How?
ACEL cultivated passion in me – my passion for agriculture, relationships with people, and my passion for learning. ACEL grew the fire inside of me for teaching and making a difference in the lives of other each and every single day whether it’s big or small.