Hall Named Outstanding Teacher
Pine Grove Future Farmers of America is already on a winning streak for the 2015-2016 school year as Advisor Annie Hall was announced as the National Association of Agriculture Educators Region VI Outstanding Teacher.
Hall is quick to point out that her success in receiving the honor is not just a reflection of her efforts.
“I’m successful because of the people that were my mentors. I’ve had a lot of school support in regards to other teachers, my students, Wetzel County Schools, the people in the board office.”
Hall’s involvement with FFA and agricultural education began in high school. The Tyler Consolidated High School graduate was an FFA member, took agricultural education classes from Leon Ammons beginning of her freshman year of high school, and started college with studying Forestry at West Virginia University. She later switched to Agricultural Education. Hall was also a part of the National Collegiate FFA. Hall graduated with her bachelor’s degree in 2006 and master’s in 2007. She began her teaching career in Nicholas County.
In her application for the Outstanding Teacher Award, Hall explains that Nicholas County’s Agricultural Education program reopened in 2007 after a 30 year absence. Hall started the program with twelve students and an empty 20 foot by 20 foot classroom. By the time she relocated to Valley High School in 2011, the Nicholas County program had over 80 students, a functional classroom, large agricultural mechanics shop, and a brand new 30 foot by 60 foot greenhouse.
There are 196 students enrolled at Valley High School. Out of those students, 105 are enrolled in an agricultural education class. Hall teaches yearlong classes including Introduction to Agriculture, the Science of Agriculture, Advanced Agriculture, and Forestry.
Hall also teaches semester classes of Horticulture, Agricultural Mechanics I, Animal Production, and Animal Processing. Students who complete the proper sequence of required and elective agricultural education classes in the program earn an agribusiness completer certification endorsed by the West Virginia Department of Agriculture.
Of course, students who are in an agriculture class are eligible to be FFA members. Perhaps Hall is most recognizable because of her involvement with Pine Grove’s award-winning FFA.
The ins and outs of the FFA program can be difficult to understand, but Hall, who has had her own success as an FFA member, explains the details with ease.
Students in an agriculture class are eligible for FFA membership. They can then earn different FFA degrees based on their membership, the top degree being the American Degree. When Hall started at Valley High School, no VHS student had yet to earn an American degree. Since then, VHS has seen five American degree recipients. Hall anticipates this number increasing.
Hall said the best part of agricultural education as a whole is “You see students in action, and you get to see what true potential is and help students develop whatever pass they have. They can tie it back in to FFA, supervised experienced, meat lab, greenhouse, or agricultural mechanic shop.”
Hall’s main goal in the classroom is to make instruction as hands-on as possible.
“We do a lot of different things in class. Last year I brought in goats and the students practiced trimming hooves.”
In Hall’s Introduction to Agriculture class, chickens are incubated, and each student has the opportunity to take a chick home to properly care for. In horticulture class, students are taught how to sell plants to a customer from the moment they greet them at the door, calculate their total on the cash register, and answer customer questions. The meats processing curriculum teaches students about retail meat identification. This knowledge is taken into the meats processing lab, where students are taught how to fabricate pork, chicken, and beef carcasses.
Students raise market swine, send them to a slaughterhouse, and then the carcasses are processed in the meats processing lab to sell. Hall teaches the students how to dry cure hams and bacons, smoke the product, and then auction the product to the community. At the end of this process, students have to slice, package, and deliver the hams and bacons they sold at the annual Ham, Bacon, and Egg sale.
The FFA members’ and agricultural education students’ duties vary throughout the year. Animal processing is completed in the fall where students have market animals that are processed in the meat lab. In spring, students are busy in the greenhouse. Hall explained the students plant all the products in the greenhouse and then sell them.
“There’s a lot of responsibility that people don’t always see,” Hall explained. “Several students that have animals, they may work a job or have other responsibilities, plus schoolwork and other clubs they are involved in. They have to have good time management skills and keep track of what they are doing.”
When in FFA as a high school student, Hall had market animals entered into the fair as well as ham and bacon hogs. “My parents had a sawmill. We used our own logs and trees and sold lumber to a cabinet making company.”
Hall still tries to implement her agricultural education experience in her daily life.”When I have time, I have a small garden plot or a pig or something that we butcher for home use,” she stated. “I try to stay as involved as I can, but sometimes other things win out. This job is more than an 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. There are times, especially in the spring, it may be 11 p.m. when I get home. There are weekends, such as four or five weekends this summer, when I had things that needed to be done. Sometimes other personal hobbies fall by the wayside.”
Hall describes her proudest moments of being a teacher as being when students succeed, “and then they come back and say if it wasn’t for the program, they wouldn’t be where they are today. It’s very rewarding as a teacher.”
Perhaps Hall said it best in her application for the outstanding teacher award. “We (agricultural educators) get the unique opportunity to mold the lives of young people everyday because we get an in depth glimpse of a student’s potential by watching them in true form – through Supervised Agricultural Experience visits, fFA activities, classroom situations, and laboratory projects.”
Hall had also stated that her main goal “is to help students find and develop their passion in life and to help them find a place for agriculture within that passion, whether as a career, hobby, or a lifestyle.”
According to Hall, at least 50 percent of her students enter an agriculture-related career or are involved somehow in agriculture, whether it is raising gardens and market animals for home use, or whether they start their own flock of chickens that they use and keep. Hall reported that about a fourth of last year’s graduates are in some sort of agricultural career.
Hall does not seem worried that agricultural education will decrease in a technology-savvy world.
“The outside image has changed even since I was in school. It used to be only students who were on a farm or had animals. Now, even if a student lives in town, agricultural education is something he or she can be involved in . . . A lot of the kids like working in the greenhouse and doing some of those things. It doesn’t matter where they live. I don’t think agricultural education will decrease. I think it will gradually be something they can expect to do when in high school. A lot of it is based on whether family members are involved, or friends.”
Hall explained that 4-H is popular in some states, instead of high school agriculture programs.
“It depends,” she noted. “In some of the biggest cities, such as Chicago, you have to apply and be accepted into the program. Every program is different.”
Hall is also quick to credit the various businesses and organizations that support Valley High School’s Agricultural Education program. In her award application she credited the following: VHS Agricultural Education Advisory Committee, Pine Grove FFA Alumni, Upper Ohio Conservation District, WV Division of Forestry, WV Department of Agriculture, WVU Extension Service, Jennings Brae Bank Farm, Witschey’s Market, VHS Art Department, The Feed Store, Simon’s Market, Martin’s TrueValue Hardware Store, Wetzel County Farm Bureau, Sugar Grove Greenhouses, Dominion Transmission, and Hundred Farm Supply. “Our agricultural education program is strong because of the support of our community,” Hall had noted.