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Cultivating Curiosity

Tim GriffethNorth Oconee High School agriculture teacher Tim Griffeth speaks about seeds to students. Photo contributed

University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences alumnus Tim Griffeth (MAL – Agricultural Leadership, ’10) believes there’s no more rewarding career than teaching agriculture.

“I always knew that I wanted to make a difference in young people’s lives over multiple generations, and I get to do that,” he said.

Griffeth is an agriculture teacher at North Oconee High School in Bogart, Georgia. He teaches three classes a day that may include basic agriculture, horticulture, wildlife management and nursery landscape.

Griffeth also serves as the adviser for the school’s chapter of the National FFA Organization, which promotes agriculture and leadership. He is responsible for overseeing students’ supervised agricultural experiences (SAE). Through SAE projects, students manage the campus’s forestry plot, tend the livestock or spend time in the greenhouse, among other options. There are off-campus opportunities as well.

Griffeth’s students write plans for their SAEs and try to anticipate obstacles within those plans. “I tell them what we’re trying to accomplish as opposed to telling them what to do,” Griffeth said.

Griffeth earned his bachelor’s degree in recreation and leisure studies administration, a program that is no longer offered at UGA. He was certified to be an agriculture educator through the agricultural leadership master’s program in CAES.

The college’s Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication (ALEC) certifies students to teach in three ways. Undergraduate students become certified to teach upon graduation, when they’ve completed the necessary coursework and student teaching. Students who have graduated from another bachelor’s degree program can take the coursework necessary for certification through ALEC. Graduate students can follow Griffeth’s path and graduate as certified teachers. The master’s program includes a specialized education course; three courses in agricultural education instruction strategies, curriculum development and total program management; and 12 hours of student teaching.

All student teachers must also pass edTPA to become certified in the state of Georgia and throughout most of the nation. In its second year of implementation in the state, edTPA is a national program that requires student teachers to compile a portfolio that addresses their planning, instruction and assessment skills.

UGA is one of only two universities in the state to offer teacher preparation for agricultural education. Griffeth’s degrees complement each other.

“So much of what I do is recreation and just caring for my students,” he said. “The teacher education program did a phenomenal job of painting a picture of reality.”  

North Oconee High School was named the 2013 North Region FFA Chapter of the Year and, in 2015, Griffeth was selected as the school’s Teacher of the Year. He said it was humbling to receive the award and represent such an important industry.

“I tell my students all the time that what they’re going to do in life is going to matter because this industry goes beyond us,” he said.

By April Bailey