Thursday, September 28, 2017

Celebrating the Success of NJAAE Treasurer, Keely Ditizio

Congratulations, Keely.

 Keely Ditizio is the ACTE Region I New Teacher Winner and will be traveling to Nashville, TN this December where she will learn if she is the National New Teacher of the year for ACTE.  Good luck.

If you haven't taken the opportunity to read the news release about Keely Ditizio, check it out here.

More information on ACTE Excellence Awards are available here. 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

National FFA Proficiency Judging - July 23 - 28, 2017

Judging of FFA Proficiencies is an experience that any advisor who wants a National Proficiency Finalist should check out.  Not only do you get to read a ton of great applications (and not so good ones too - how did they get to this level), you also get to meet FFA advisors, state FFA advisors/specialists, and National FFA  Staff!  National FFA pays for all travel - sets up your plane (also pays for parking at the airport, mileage to the airport) also the hotel room, which was a Sheraton Hotel which was attached to the Keystone Crossing Mall and all meals during my stay.

The week starts out with a slide presentation of what groups will be judging.  There are two rooms - proficiency judging with Agriscience Fair Judging and National FFA Chapter Judging.
My group - I was the lead advisor, consisted of an advisor from North Dakota, Texas and South Carolina.  We judged entrepreneurship applications in:
     Swine, Diversified Crop, Beef, Dairy and Ag Sales.

The schedule is as follows:
     7:00-8:00 - Breakfast
     Work on applications
     Noon - Lunch
     Work on applications
     Snack around 3:00 in judging room
     Dinner - 6:00
     Work on applications until 9:00

As you can see, the days are reading, judging, eating, sleeping and getting great ideas of what FFA members are doing throughout the country.  And you are part of the National FFA judges process!
As you are judging, each application needs 3 scores, top 4 needs 4 scores.  If your state has an application in the mix, the superintendent or final judges need to score it.

This adventure was great!  Some applications are awesome - there was one in Beef Cattle that if the boy was older, I would love him to meet my daughter (my group all felt this way!).  Who wouldn't want a boy who set up with his local ministry, fresh beef to the local food banks!  Then there were those that made us giggle - the dairy cow story about 2 cows that were born days apart, in love with each other and would go to shows together.  Then one day, one of the cows got sick and it didn't make it!  The other cow was sad and couldn't show anymore and the girl was distraught too!  Oh no, maybe we need an Animal/People Therapist!  Then, one in Ag Sales that was great, but got disqualified - a girl bought a food truck and took it to rodeos and fairs.  She took out a loan for $15,000.  But food trucks didn't fit the Ag Sales description! The girl was a Junior in High School and just impressed me!

Other positive/negative personal things - I was proud I found the Economy Lot at Newark Airport to park (usually I fly out of Philadelphia).  As I got out of my car, I realized I locked my keys/cell phone, well everything in the car!  Now, what do I do?  I asked the guy at the check out booth what to do.  He said to go over to the Bus Stop and use the yellow phone.  While walking there, the security guard drove up and asked me if I needed help (I'm in Newark).  I told him my issue, and he took me to my car and called AAA.  Long story short, they were out in 15 minutes and I was back on my way to the airport terminal!  Newark Airport pays for this service (so I don't even have to tell my husband).  Since United seems to be having issues these days, my flight was delayed so that military personnel could catch this flight when their plane landed from Alaska.  My flight to Newark was delayed - we sat on the runway in Indianapolis for a half hour because Newark had delays getting flights in and out.

On this adventure, I took my first Uber ride.  Had to download the app in the airport, called and got a ride to the hotel with a lovely lady.  Her daughter was in FFA and was going to school to be an Ag Teacher!   Small World!  (Uber was $36 compared to Taxi $65).  I met advisors/specialists from all over the country - 2 advisors were there from Alaska, West Coast - California, Nevada, Oklahoma, the list goes on.

Some other thoughts - Texas Advisor uses a BnB for National Convention and Uber/Lyft.  PA State SAE Coordinator said they were disappointed that NJ Advisors didn't help with the Poultry CDE.  I know Keith Dannucci did (he loves to be a part of this at Manheim and Big E).  Communication is key at these events.  If you know you can not help, let them know!

The Proficiency Awards were announced this week.  New Jersey did well:
Congratulations to all NJ members that participated - Gold/Silver/Bronze and to Cumberland's Josh Loew for being a National Proficiency Finalist!  Good Luck at Nationals!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Burlington County Farm Fair - July 18-22 - Advisor Thoughts

Farm Fair:  Reason:  To Agvocate!  A look at an Advisors Week:
Day 1:  Monday - Keith Dannucci and myself judge in the Home Show Tent - Veggies and Flowers.
             We take a look at our tent for this year and then I have Horse Judging Practice.......

Day 2:  Tuesday - Farm Fair Set up 12-2
             Tractor Driving CDE - 4 members compete - we come in 2,3,4 and 5.  Congratulations to       Cumberland FFA for their winning tractor driver!  A big thank you to Central Jersey Equipment for supplying the equipment and the Central Jersey Tractor Pullers for setting up the contest!  A shout out to Justin Noble for picking up the posts from school!
              6:00 - Farm Fair Opening Ceremony's!  A look at the Farm Fair Queen nominees and Northern FFA presents the plaque from NJ State FFA that we received on their behalf at State Convention!  Tent opened to 9:00 pm.  Members sold Sunflower bunches.  Horse Judging Practice.....

Day 3:  Wednesday - 8:00 am  Horse Judge Team meets to review last minute information.
Advisor Fail:  Forgot clipboards/paper......always happens for this one!  Luckily Erin Noble has extras from Tractor Driving!  YooHoo!  Contest goes on to 1:30!  Congratulations to the following:
1st place - Northern;  2nd place - Woodstown:  3rd place - Newton;  4th place - Warren Hills
I'm back at 4:00 to man the tent with members.  This is Farm Fair Queen Night!  Let the Drama unfold!  Northern FFA has 4 members running!  At 9:00 pm - I'm the only one in the tent with 3 alumni selling T-Shirts and Sunflowers.....the queen is announced - a member runs up to tell me the winners!

Day 4:  Thursday - my day off from working the Fair.  I worked our Summer Ag Program in the morning!  No issues with the tent (Mr. Dannucci is advisor in charge at Farm Fair).

Day 5:  Friday - 4:00 - 10:00  Keith Dannucci and I.  FFA members were there to man the tent!  Lots of alumni stopping by!  It is great to hear how everyone is doing!

Day 6:  Saturday - last day of Farm Fair.
8:00 am Dairy Handler - 4 members competing - I was shocked that you could have this many, but I read the announcement and low and behold, you can have up to 4!  And we had 5, so we had to have a run-off!  Another Advisor Fail - SOS call and text:  one dairy handler needed her scarf (official dress left at school); picked it up but didn't get to contest in time!  Results:  1st: Salem; 2nd: Cumberland; 3rd: Northern; tied for 4th: Northern. Contest and awards done by 10:00 am
Back to tent at 4:00 pm.  Brian Hayes and I are advisors in charge!  Annoucement at 6:00 to evacuate the premises because of storm approaching.  When storm looked like it really was approaching, we packed up the tent and took what we could back to school.  Members picked up the rest of items on Sunday.  At school, we almost got hit by lightning.  The end to Farm Fair for this year!

Special Items: What you find out at Farm Fair - Friends of FFA
Grateful to the Central Jersey Tractor Pullers for supplying our tent to help us Advocate for Agriculture.
Concern for NJ FFA CDE's -
    Tractor Driving - no issues that I know of!  The Central Jersey Tractor pullers do a great job!
    Horse Judging - obtaining horses - didn't have them as of the Friday before!  Found Some!
    Dairy Handler - The superintendent of this event is stepping down (she has done a great job!);  Will we be able to get cows for this event?  Thanks to the Bond's for supplying the cows the past couple of years!
Concern for Advisors - Lots of hours put in with out pay!  Gotta love what you do!
Found out from one of our students that Delaware Valley University wasn't honoring her NJ FFA Teach Ag Award (4 years/$14,000 per year), because of her other scholarships.  As advisors, we looked into this, asked questions at the Fall Ag Ed Conference, and feel horrible!  Shocked us all!  We are looking into it!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Why XLR8? (Perspective by J. Wilson)

There's just over a month (Due 9/1) to get your applications in for the National Association of Agricultural Educators XLR8 Program designed for educators in their 7th through 15th year of teaching.

Our past NJAAE President, Jennifeur Wilson, shares her personal perspective on why it is a beneficial professional development experience.

I still feel participating in XLR8 has been the best decision I have made. I gained a perspective shaped from experiences that challenged me to my core and afforded opportunities for growth like none other. Coming up through FFA and feeling internal direction to teach, Agricultural Education was a natural choice. Seemingly impossible at first, I soon found my self in a supportive community among the like minded and the kind hearted much like I experienced in FFA. And much like FFA, the opportunities to receive State and National recognition for developing as a professional were endless. The door swung wide and I indulged. It was close to my seventh year in my career that I earned the opportunity to fly to Las Vegas during the school year for XLR8 training, and along side some of the best teachers in our country face the cold hard truth that I  put my career before every other aspect of my life. I didn't accept it at first. I was recognized by my district as teacher of the year and revisited the reality that I was the hardest working teacher in the school. I knew I had to do something, and began taking baby steps toward getting my life back. In the process, I lost the relationship I was in and nearly 70 of the 80 pounds I had gained. I wouldn't be where I am today if I hadn't initially failed, experienced success and fought to get it all back. XLR8 was a wake up call.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

NAAE Region IV Saves the Best For Last

Great presentation by Officer Michael Matson.  Learned about a great career.  What an inspiration!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Some highlights, fun at UNH!

The morning lecture on Arborculture was informative.  The pitch was basically: arborculture is a great career, many opportunities, and it's become very high tech, using all kinds of interesting electronic technology, like drones, and the tree version of a sonogram.  Most of the jobs involve such skills as finding the value of urban trees, assessing health, and designing remediation, and analyzing trees for potential failure (you know, before they fall down, close roads, and land on wires, causing electric outages).    We learned the difference between looking for a career in forestry and arborculture. The presenter was from Bartlett, and when I find out his name, I'll edit this post. 

The second presentation I attended was about the potential for bee keeping, and how to make lip balm.  The presenters didn't seem to think it was a good way to support ones' self, perhaps just doing it as a hobby, but then again, tell that to the folks at Burt's Bees.  It was a fun activity, and I got to watch the queen (she had a white dot painted on her). 

How to increase membership?

A great discussion on advocacy... what do we need to bring in more members to NJAAE, and NAAE?  I'm the only member in Camden County, how can I get others to join?  How do we brand ourselves, so we can stand out?
Sherisa Nailor lead the discussion about how we promote ourselves, how do we collect data, and showed us a template to report out our information. 

NAAE Greetings

I've been madly in love with NAAE Communities of Practice ever since I was introduced to it about 4 years ago.  So, I'm biased.  But, having been in education all of my life (or so it seems), I've never experienced such a comprehensive and in depth desire to support each other, as the Ag teaching community.  It was great to meet representatives Julie Fritch and Sherisa Nailor.  Each state reported out with the highlights (good/bad/ugly, lol) of their programs.  It's great to hear what initiatives are being proposed an enacted in these other states, and what challenges other states face.  Of course, when given the opportunity, I'll tell a story or two, so I did...
New York talked about needing 80 teachers...
But, Maryland sounds like it is in the process of rebuilding, and doesn't share the same vacancy stress at this time. 

NAEE Region IV... First Night!

Our Sunday night entertainment:  Move over Garrison Keillor, Rebecca Rule, rules the New England story kingdom.  As a lifelong resident of Pennsylvania, there are things I didn't know about New England.  First of all, there is a place called Lake Mooselookmeguntic, and New Englanders have a lot of jokes about this place, and the Mooselook Wobbler lure, and old stoves. The New England accent adds value to these jokes, of course! 

Sunday, June 25, 2017

NQPS, a discussion at NAAE Region IV Summer Conference

I was privileged to be on board with the field test of the online NQPS (National Quality Program Standards).  So, seeing it up and ready to go today was good news!  I used this with my freshmen, to show them what is expected in the program, and I had them complete the survey (I printed out the pages).  Of course, that would be the day the AP came for the surprise 3rd evaluation of the year!

The explanation of the changes was informative.  As a newbie, I wasn't privy to the old version. The rubric gives suggested evidence.  I hope to have my supervisor work with me on this, so he and I can dialogue about areas of concern, and target areas to focus on for the year. It sounds like this is a good idea. 

Kevin Keith and Karen Hutchinson walked us through the process, and showed us about the various topics covered.  The growth and planning portion is key.  It's one thing to beat yourself up in an evaluation, but getting an advisory committee that is hands on, seems to be key.  Picking 2 or 3 to focus on, is the advice.  They then showed us how to get through the website, and how to interface with the web based evaluation.  They finished up with a summary of best practices. 

NAAE Region VI, musings of a newbee at Summer Conference

Our Sara Cobb, the CASE Online Learning Coordinator got us started Sunday afternoon.  Nice colorful printouts on quality paper!  She got us started by looking at the process of note-taking, how to get students to improve their note-taking skills, and how Inquiry-Based Learning works.  We looked at the first AFNR activity, through the lens of a student.  Long story short, my group will be well dressed in our graves... only 1 of us will eat, and we have no shelter!  Bad if we are Algonquin in the winter.  Sara helped us look at the Purpose more carefully, by having us focus on the words the students should know coming in, and might struggle with due to their complexity of meaning.  She also had us look at reading strategies to get students to focus on materials and actions.  Students don't like to be just handed worksheet packets; so this will be good for me, because I'll have another tool in my toolbox to hold them accountable, and verify they really understand the point of the assignment, as well as how to go forward as a group!  The metacognition activity, ISU Inquiry Workshop Activity 1.1.2 Student Worksheet, is loaded with ways to think about what the teacher and what the students will be doing during the lesson.  A great discussion on how you tie this activity to the community, esp. discussions of hunger.  My inquiry based question? What would my life be like if I had to provide for all of my food, shelter and clothing needs?  Why do I teach CASE?  Glad you asked....

Monday, June 19, 2017

Sharpening the Saw this Summer

Some of us have just started summer break while others might be on the cusp of it starting. As agricultural educators, there sometimes seems to be no end to our tasks, even when summer comes. Maybe there are supervised agricultural experience visits, county fairs, curriculum work, school committees, mandatory training to keep certificates current, and I know the list could go on.

This summer, I challenge all of you to "Sharpen the Saw" as Steven Covey wrote about in his book the "7 Habits of Highly Effective People."

Maybe you want to sharpen your physical saw by joining the New Jersey FFA Alumni as they honor John and Laurie Neyhart during the June 27th Golf Tournament. Check out EventBrite or Facebook for more info. 

Currently, I'm part of the National Association of Agricultural Educators (NAAE) Virtual Book Club. We're reading "Start. Right. Now." and this is allowing me to sharpen my mental saw, but also my social/ emotional as I connect with other educators engaged in the discussion over the course of the summer. It's not too late to join the discussion there plus you get professional development hours.

Nearly since its inception, I've participate in #TeachAgChat which also lets me sharpen my saw. If you want to dabble in Twitter, there will be a "Slow Chat" in early July. You can answer any or all of the prompts there are. This chat reflects to some degree on the idea of sharpening the saw.

It can sometimes get easy to sharpen the saw in our professional lives, even in summer and forget that self-renewal comes in other areas as well. Stephen Covey mentions the spiritual saw as well. This could mean getting outside and taking a hike, unearthing some of your art supplies, or engaging in some quiet meditation.

It's up to you to take care of you. I'd love to hear what you're doing this summer as you sharpen your saw.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Building Relationships - Advocacy and Communication

Welcome to our NJAAE Blog!

As President for the next two years, one of my goals is to help increase communication with our members. To kick things off, I am completely stealing a wonderful email that was shared by one of our members, Brian Ducey. Early this year, he shared advocacy and relationship building efforts in his county. Here was his message:

"I was just reflecting with another teacher a few days ago about how fortunate we are here in Monmouth County to have the support we do.  We have consistently seen members from the agricultural and county community support our students in advice, material and financial support. 

I have joined a tradition of cooperation on a county level.  Members of our County Board of Agriculture have invited our students to their annual dinner and we will have members attend their meeting.  They are a great resource for feedback on presentations and speeches as well as the issues facing NJ Agriculture and American Agriculture.  They have supported our students at our county fair with donations of produce that we have in turn been able to sell at out fair to benefit the local chapter.  Our students develop confidence, sales skills, networking and sense of community.

This has also opened other doors to our students, for instance they recently received a FFA Week Proclamation from our Board of Chosen Freeholders.  Additionally, we have students attending and participating in other committees like the Monmouth County Environmental Commission this Wednesday has invited us to a round table discussion on the use of hydroponic growing.

When I say our students I mean students from each of the four FFA Chapters of Monmouth County. I would also add that in keeping with the Team AG Ed Family, Monmouth County has been developing an additional layer to practice brotherhood, honor agricultural opportunities and responsibilities.  I would challenge you to seek more cooperation, communication and collaboration when you can and it may lead to more inspiration for your students."

Post primary election day, he followed up encouraging us to all get involved in relationship building and connecting to our legislators.

Yesterday, was primary day, and in May we spoke about making sure that we reach out to our elected officials.  Here is a tool for locating them pretty quickly and some hot topics that are near and dear to our passions and our students’ passions:

Also, here is a NJDA link to our agricultural community leadership.  The directory will help you locate your board of agriculture and others.  I have also attached a PDF of it.

1) Start building or continue building those relationships, so when times get tough, legislators, decision makers and the community already know who we are in agricultural education and what we contribute to our country's future. 
2) Add a comment on this blog sharing how you advocate.