Grateful for women in FFA

By Dr. M. Susie Whittington
The Ohio State University

During National FFA Week, it is with gratefulness that I briefly reflect on an historical aspect of my high school FFA experience during the late 1960s and early 1970s.

As has been recorded in our FFA history, women were voted into membership in the FFA in 1969, so my agricultural science teachers in the early 1970s at Benjamin Logan High School in Zanesfield, Ohio, unlike many Vo-ag teachers of the time, were immediate adopters of the new membership policies…but, I never knew any of that at the time; I didn’t process the timeline, nor understand the political maneuvering of the membership vote, until many years later. What I now understand and appreciate, however, is that I had four male agricultural science teachers in the 1970s, who played no gender favorites, who expected the same quality productivity from every student no matter their gender, and who saw potential in me that I had not yet seen in myself.

I also now understand, because my life revolves on a daily basis around developing the best agricultural science teachers that The Ohio State University can prepare, that Mr. Bill Conklin, Mr. Jim Barnes, Mr. Harmon Conrad, and Mr. Paul Case, my agricultural science teachers, were well-educated in teaching methodologies, were excellent FFA advisors, and cared deeply about students.

My dad was a high school vocational agriculture student and FFA member at Rushsylvania High School in Ohio, under Mr. Ralph Bergman, a highly respected teacher, state-wide. I recall, my entire life, hearing my dad quote and reference Mr. Bergman with much pride, respect, and awe in his voice and in his actions. So, it was no surprise, when my oldest brother approached high school age, that my factory-worker father, would move our family to a small farm, so my brothers could be agriculture students and FFA members.

During the mid-to-late 1960s, when my older brothers’ Vo-ag teachers brought their FFA General Livestock judging team to our farm to practice their livestock selection skills, I remember thinking, “Judging seems really cool. I think I’ll do that when I’m an FFA member.” I had no idea that during those years, girls weren’t allowed to be FFA members, so I couldn’t have been a member of the FFA General Livestock judging team at that time. Nor had I processed, each year, when my dad and brothers brought home the program from the annual “FFA Father and Son Banquet”, that it was titled that because girls weren’t allowed to be FFA members. All I remember was pouring through that program and seeing awards like, “Star Greenhand” and “State Farmer Degree” and thinking, “I’m going to win those!”

Thankfully for me, in 1969, a vote, albeit fueled by government intervention, made it possible for me, and generations of women after me, to experience first-class leadership development through FFA. More importantly, to me, however, the vote opened the door necessary for women to pursue fulfilling careers as teachers of Agricultural Science Education. I, and thousands of women after me, are, indeed, grateful.


Two of Dr. Whittington's FFA advisors who were influential in her time as a member and beyond.

Two of Dr. Whittington’s FFA advisors who were influential in her time as a member and beyond.


Queen Susie and her FFA court.

Queen Susie and her FFA court.


Dr. Whittington, posing with the members of her FFA chapter, was one of a few females in her chapter.

Dr. Whittington, posing with the members of her FFA chapter, was one of a few females in her chapter.


Dr. Whittington receives recognition from then Ohio FFA State President Rob Hovis.

Dr. Whittington receives recognition from then Ohio FFA State President Rob Hovis.


Junior Susie Quay was named Chapter Sweetheart and is pictured with two honorary members.

Junior Susie Quay was named Chapter Sweetheart and is pictured with two honorary members.


Benjamin Logan FFA Chapter in 1975 (Dr. Whittington is in the front center.)

Benjamin Logan FFA Chapter in 1975 (Dr. Whittington is in the front center.)


Dr. Whittington’s (bottom right) first FFA chapter as an educator.



Dr. Susie Whittington, and her husband Dr. Pat Whittington, both turned their FFA blue and gold into Ohio State’s scarlet and gray.


Dr. Whittington now serves on an FFA alumni poster.



Call Me Miss Motter

By: Abby Motter
Agriscience Education

I remember the first morning I was going to visit North Union High School as part of my Early Field Experience in Agriscience Education. I was nervous on what to wear, traffic, a new place, and the 120 hours and multiple assignments that I had yet to accomplish. As my Keurig finished brewing my cup of coffee I grabbed my car keys and newly acquired “teacher’s bag” before heading to the infamous State Route 315 at promptly 6:10 am.

That first morning when I parked behind the Ag Shop and walked in the door a sense of familiarity washed over me. The sight of welding booths and FFA banners, the student projects sitting around the shop, and the faint playing of country music instantly made me feel at home. Soon after meeting Mr. Jolliff and Miss Breck Finch I knew I would enjoy my time there. Ag teachers have a special gift to make you feel at ease because they genuinely care about you both in and out of the classroom. From that day forward every early drive and every late night was fulfilling, rewarding and exciting, because on the other end of that trip was a chapter of students, and I had grown attached.

My cooperating educators were generous in giving me responsibility and firsthand experience. I had the opportunity to create and present lesson plans concerning professional development, parliamentary procedure, the FFA creed, and leadership. In addition, I was able to assist coaching and judging CDE teams, work one on one with students, and instruct classroom labs. I learned about concrete and soils, observed teaching strategies, and learned the ins and outs of a fruit sale. All the while receiving guidance, constructive criticism and insight about my future career as an Agricultural Educator. Perhaps the most important lessons I learned involved classroom discipline, this was the first time I was regarded as “Miss Motter” and had the duty of maintaining respect and attention. My conversations with students taught me new things every time I visited, and as a result I learned even more about myself, and my motivation for spending my talents in a classroom.

Our Early Field Experience required interviewing other educators, daily journals, lesson plan analyses, and careful record of educational psychology techniques. It required early mornings and long commutes, business casual attire, and continual planning. The purpose of this experience is to allow the self-evaluation necessary to either continue pursuing this future career, or to realize it’s not your path. Although confident in my desire to be a teacher, my Early Field Experience affirmed my decision and made me even more excited for the future. For me, the classroom is where I truly become the best version of myself. I have the ability to encourage and empower our future leaders and I feel fulfilled when I can bring a smile or helping hand to a student. I looked forward to driving through the small town of Richwood, talking with my students, and being a North Union Wildcat. Some people may feel confined in a high school, but when I walk down the halls I feel nothing but excitement for the potential in each and every student. Not every day was easy or enjoyable, but every day brought a new challenge and lesson learned. I have to admit I love the way Miss Motter sounds, I don’t mind grading papers, and coffee tastes a lot better when it comes from the break room.


Abby checking in fruit for North Union’s FFA Fruit Sale.

When FFA Comes Full Circle

By: Dr. Tracy Kitchel
Chair of the Department of Agricultural Communication, Education, and Leadership

There are times in your life when things come full circle.  It’s the idea that who you knew in one setting or what you had done previously surfaces or links to something in present time in a new, yet familiar way.  After having had the opportunity to move back to Ohio this summer, I’ve had a number of “full circle” moments.  For example, my office at OSU is the room where I defended my master’s thesis. When I met the donor of my first Ohio State scholarship this past fall where I’m now in a capacity to give back myself.  When I walked into the Agriculture Hall of Fame breakfast, I found myself catching up with numerous friends, college mates, and acquaintances I had not seen for years after having convinced myself I wouldn’t know a single person in the room. When those full circle moments occur, I find myself reflecting on those links that had made those full circles come to fruition.  I would argue that some of my most powerful full circle moments are connected with my involvement in FFA.

My first set of full circle moments happened when I had the opportunity to serve as the 1994-1995 State FFA Reporter.  It makes sense, really.  I had the opportunity to conduct chapter visits to inspire other FFA members like I had been inspired by state officers before me.  I had the opportunity to be a part of running the state FFA convention, an event that had motivated me year after year as a high school student.  The most significant full circle moments for me as a state officer was spending time with FFA members one-on-one.  I was not the best officer in terms of meeting a large proportion of FFA members at any given event, but the members I did meet I knew well. I remember when state or national FFA officers took time to talk to me one-on-one. Those were very impactful conversations that helped shape my FFA career. I can only hope that some of my conversations did the same for others.

Tracy Kitchel, 1994-1995 Ohio FFA State Reporter

More full circle moments occurred when I became an FFA advisor.  I was the agriculture teacher and FFA advisor at Archbold High School from 1999-2002. Again, there were many opportunities for those full circle moments. Some full circle moments felt more like karma. For example, I had know-it-all students in my class that drove me crazy – a characteristic that I’m sure I surfaced for my agriculture teacher who was equally annoyed with me. Others were more powerful. I remember the faces of my students when I took them to their first national FFA convention session – the same awe-inspiring face I had years prior.  I recall my students understanding – and even thanking me – for requiring them to have nice-looking official dress, which is something I took pride in as an FFA member myself. I think my favorite full circle moment was watching students fall in love with agriculture in my classroom, just as I had fallen in love with agriculture from having lived on a farm and a love that was reinforced from my experiences in FFA.

Dr. Kitchel driving the pontoon boat at FFA camp during his chapter’s FFA officer retreat.

I would be remiss in not sharing one of the most powerful full circle moments.  As a professor and teacher educator, I have the opportunity to train future agriculture teachers and FFA advisors. I could spend hours on the full circle moments watching these future teachers move from student to student teacher to beginning teacher and now to master teacher. However, that powerful full circle moment is connected to one of my first college students, who happened to be the daughter of my agriculture teacher.  Joseph K. Slone, former agriculture teacher and FFA advisor at National Trail High School, is on a short list of pivotal people who helped shape my career.  Needless to say, there was immense pressure to make sure his daughter was take care of and trained well. I was a new Assistant Professor and newly-minted Ph.D. when Joe Slone brought his daughter Jessica to summer registration in 2005 at the University of Kentucky. I would be assigned as her academic advisor, would later teach her teaching methods course and eventually would be her university supervisor for student teaching. Whether she liked it or not, she was stuck with me. My parents shared with me that throughout Jessica’s college career, Joe would quiz them about whether I was staying or leaving (even when there was no evidence of me leaving). He shared with them that he had great relief knowing I was in Lexington and that I was her advisor.  Be he also shared that if I ever left, 1. that relief would go away and 2. he would likely hunt me down. I took great pride (and felt great pressure) in knowing the trust he placed in me to not only take care of his daughter, but felt that pride and pressure even more so in being a key part of her development as an agriculture teacher and FFA advisor. It truly was full circle in the most fulfilling way. I’ve enjoyed watching her career blossom and now that I’ve returned to Ohio, I am much closer to see her change students’ lives as she continues to build the Covington agriculture program and FFA chapter.



Dr. Kitchel (left), Spring 2009 University of Kentucky graduation.

There were great things that occurred while I wore that blue corduroy jacket. My experiences in that jacket took me to places I had never been, both physical and otherwise. It transformed how I thought about myself, who I wanted to be, and gave me tools that I use in my life today. With that said, I think some of my best experiences with FFA have been after wearing that jacket. Your experiences with FFA do not end in high school – that’s only where they begin, if you let it. Find your full-circle moments by staying connecting with FFA locally, state-wide or nationally and consider becoming an agriculture teacher/FFA advisor yourself. You will find joy and fulfillment in engaging in those FFA full circle moments.