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West Rowan teacher wins agricultural education award

MOUNT ULLA — Jason Chester, agricultural educator at West Rowan High School in Moiunt Ulla, is one of only six individuals nationwide who received the Outstanding Agricultural Education Teacher Award, given at the National Association of Agricultural Educators annual convention in New Orleans on Nov. 18.

The Outstanding Agricultural Education Teacher award program distinguishes NAAE members who are at the pinnacle of their profession — those who are conducting the highest quality agricultural education programs. The award recognizes leadership in civic, community, agriculture/agribusiness and professional activities. Outstanding agricultural educators are innovators and catalysts for student success in agricultural education.

Chester has been one of three agricultural educators at West Rowan High School for eleven years. The program includes a land lab with livestock facilities, two greenhouses and a half-acre nursery area. Chester uses the land lab to its fullest potential, engaging students in active learning while working with livestock or in the greenhouse. His instruction allows students to complete hands-on projects like landscaping areas around campus, vaccinating livestock, harvesting crops from the greenhouse and repairing items for the school and community.

Chester spends a great deal of time staying educated in agricultural issues and the needs of the community. He makes monthly visits to local farms and continually interacts with the extension service and university research farm system. Chester is currently serving as regional vice president of the North Carolina Agriculture Teachers Association. This continued education allows him to stay current in the community and make connections that will benefit his students.

Each of Chester’s students conducts a personal agricultural project outside of the classroom, and Chester supervises every one of them. Incoming freshmen have the opportunity to go on a project tour, visiting older students’ projects and local agribusinesses. This is encouraging for young students and they are able to see what it takes to maintain a successful project. The diversity of agriculture in Mount Ulla provides a variety of options for students. Through these projects, students gain the opportunity to implement skills learned in the classroom and prepare for a future career.

“Jason has harnessed community support which has provided support both financially and their individual time and talents to help students achieve educational success. Additionally, students have been recognized nationally for CDE achievement and degrees, as national proficiency award finalists and as agriscience fair finalists,” said David Overcash, agricultural educator and FFA advisor at South Rowan High School.

Each of the six regional Outstanding Teacher Award winners was recognized at the NAAE convention in New Orleans. The Outstanding Teacher Award is sponsored by Caterpillar, Inc. and Tractor Supply Company as a special project of the National FFA Foundation.

NAAE is the professional organization in the United States for agricultural educators.  It provides its nearly 8,000 members with professional networking and development opportunities, professional liability coverage and extensive awards and recognition programs. The mission of NAAE is “professionals providing agricultural education for the global community through visionary leadership, advocacy and service.”  The NAAE headquarters are in Lexington, Ky.

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