Ed. Note: Cross-posted from TEACH.gov. This post is the seventh in a summer-long, weekly blog series celebrating young teachers. We hope these profiles of teachers who have inspired their students and increased their classroom’s performance will inspire the next generation of teachers! Please visit our blog to see the previous posts.
“Education really is a labor of love,” says Matthew Eddy, the Agriculture Education Instructor and FFA Advisor at Southeast Polk Community Schools in Pleasant Hill, Iowa: “you have to have a desire to help people.” But, he continues, “in agriculture education, we are lucky enough to work hard at preparing the future generations of agriculturists who will have such a large impact on what our world will look like. Everyone needs to eat, so I can’t imagine a more important industry to lend my efforts to improve.” Matt hopes that by setting a good example for his students, he’ll inspire them to work towards a career in agriculture—or perhaps teaching. For Matt, “The most fun comes when they find something that clicks with their goals and realize that Ag is pretty ‘cool.’”
Two excellent agriculture educators got Matt interested in the subject early on. Upon graduation, he had the option to go into “farming, teaching, or business and industry—I got started as a first year teacher,” he says. “I never really planned to teach very long but I suppose the rest is history. To turn a phrase from the Ag Teachers Creed: ‘I got here by chance but have stayed by choice.’”
Matt believes that Career and Technical Education (CTE) is “uniquely positioned to restore our educational system to the greatness it was once known for.” He engages his students by putting their studies in context, and involving them in practices during agricultural cycles. The agricultural science program Matt built and now oversees utilizes the three circle model of agricultural education, in which formal instruction, supervised experience, and work with the Future Farmers of America (FFA), are all equally emphasized. 100% of Matt’s students are members of the FFA and participate in Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE). The 256 FFA members at his school comprise the largest chapter in Iowa. As part of the AgScience program, Matt’s students artificially inseminate cattle so that they’ll breed at the Iowa State Fair. There his students not only learn about the entire cycle but also have the opportunity to educate the families attending the fair about the breeding and birthing process. The AgScience program also covers Aqua Culture, Greenhouse care, Landscaping, and Animal Science.
In addition to his work as a teacher, Matt is involved in education at the local, state, and national level. He serves in the Polk County 4-H Club, and on the FFA Fair Board. Under Matt’s leadership, Southeast Polk’s FFA chapter has won the National Chapter Three Star Award six years in a row.
For Matt, the toughest part about teaching is “realizing that 90% of the job is working with students.” He knows that “taking care of the things you can affect, accepting the things you can’t and having enough wisdom to know the difference,” enables him to effectively manage all of his responsibilities. “It’s a tough job,” says Matt. “Teaching takes all of your energy, [and] is never the same from day to day or even hour to hour. [It is] the toughest job you’ll ever love.”