By Jaime Chenevey
FFA Alumna and West Holmes High School Agriculture Education Teacher
Twenty-five years ago, I was introduced to quite possibly the most important organization in my life. I was sitting in eighth grade English when several members of the Hillsdale FFA Chapter walked into the room for recruitment. They talked to us for a while, and showed a video called America, We Are The FFA. I was slightly intrigued, but unsure about joining, however, my friend Kathy Bartter was a member and many of my friends were joining, so I decided why not. I have always loved animals, especially horses, and I grew up wanting to be a vet. Little did I know that this organization was quickly going to lead me down a new career path.
My first day in ag class opened my eyes to a whole new world of opportunities. I wanted to do everything I could possibly do. Thankfully, my ag teacher, Mark Hoffman, let me do pretty much that. Some of my favorite memories in high school came from freezing cold van rides in the “Blue Goose,” singing Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road, practicing for contests at all hours of the day, and experiencing the joys of success in all levels of competition. I traveled the country, learned how to be a leader, and further developed my passion for agriculture. I was an FFA officer, a member of multiple state-winning CDE teams, I was third in the nation in Ag Sales, and I was a State and American Degree recipient. Heck, we might have been more successful as an FFA chapter at Hillsdale than we were as a softball program, and that is something to reckon with. Agricultural education and FFA shaped who I am today, and made me decide to become an ag teacher myself, so I could give my own students the opportunities I was given.
Being an ag teacher
It takes a special person to be an ag teacher — most people I know call me crazy. It involves long hours, more time with your students than your own family, and a need to know a little about everything from agronomy to welding. I learned from one of the best and I am very proud of that. I often tell my own students, your ag teacher is like another parent, in fact, I often called Mr. Hoffman ‘dad.’ It wouldn’t take you long to determine where I came from, his influence plays a major role in what I do today. But I have added a little of my own flair as well.
I am unbelievably proud of “my kids;” I push them hard every day, harder than some of them like. I have goals and expectations for them — sometimes that makes me mean. I push them outside of their comfort zones, I help them grow. I expose them to cultural experiences and views that do not match their own, which makes me “weird.” I spend time with them in school, after school, on the weekends, and sometimes all night at lock-ins — that makes me crazy, but I love every minute of it. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing a student succeed or see the light come on for them in class, that is what keeps me coming back day after day.
A busy life and countless memories
So what has your week entailed? Thanks to FFA, mine has been very busy. In class we are creating corn hole boards, welding, studying hydraulics and swine production. We are also raising tilapia in the aquaculture unit, trying our hand at hydroponic and aquaponic production of vegetables, and starting initial preparations for the 50th anniversary banquet and FFA week. This week, after school we have had Ag Power Diagnostics (tractor troubleshooting), dairy judging, and ag sales practices, district speaking, went snow tubing at Snow Trails, and hosted the Ag Power contest for 12 schools. This weekend we are sending teams to the Mount Gilead judging invitational and students to the Union Local Leadership Lock-In.
Then there are the people. My high school buddies who were a part of countless memories. My ag teacher who shaped me and kept me sane in the early years of teaching. My teaching counterparts who give me advice, resources, and who I do not ever get to spend enough time with. My former students who are now my friends, have succeeded in life, and a have a deep passion for agriculture. My current students, who are the reason I do what I do, who frustrate me and motivate me to become better every day. The community, especially the agriculturalists who support our organization and keep our country running. And the friendships — people who have accepted me for who I am, a crazy lady who loves agriculture, animals, the outdoors, interacting with people, and pushing students beyond their comfort zones.
Why do I say thank you to the FFA... It’s really simple: feeding the world, pride, technology, driven, passionate, loyal, dedicated, hard working, unstoppable, motivating, forceful, impactful, organization, career, lifestyle, family, friends, memories, future.
More than you could ever imagine, something everyone should try, my life, #thankyouFFA.
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