A group of University of Georgia agricultural education students attended the national FFA convention this fall to gain real-world insight about their future roles as teachers.
Every year, Eric Rubenstein, assistant professor of agricultural leadership, education and communication in UGA’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES), takes agricultural education students to the National FFA Convention and Expo. Some of his students have attended the convention as middle or high school students, but now Rubenstein takes all of his students to see the experience anew, through the eyes of a teacher in a now required trip for the program.
“This experience allows our students to begin to make the transition from being a college student to a middle or high school teacher charged with the responsibility of ensuring the safety of the children in their care,” Rubenstein said.
Caroline Waldrep, a CAES senior majoring in agricultural education, is a veteran attendee of the FFA convention but gained a new perspective during this year’s convention in Indianapolis.
“This was my sixth time attending,” Waldrep said. “I always love attending National FFA Convention, because it brings me so much joy to see so many others sharing their passion for agriculture ... I was encouraged by how passionate they are about agriculture, and I know it’s going to bring me so much happiness to be able to make trips like this with my own students in the future.”
During their time at the convention and expo, the 17 CAES agricultural education students helped with contests, attended workshops, witnessed student successes and mingled with FFA members from all corners of the nation. They also shared their experiences at UGA while working at the expo’s UGA booth.
“I spent time answering questions and sharing my experiences at UGA to prospective students,” said Jay Moon, a CAES senior agricultural education major who worked at the booth. "It was a great experience to meet so many individuals who have been inspired to further their education in agriculture.”
Perhaps the most important takeaway from the FFA trip was the sense of pride the UGA students felt about their chosen major. Attendee Haley Sosebee, a CAES agricultural education major, said the experience reminded her of why she chose a career in agricultural education.
“It was a reminder of what I love about FFA and agriculture education,” Sosebee said. “Being in a college classroom for so long really made me feel disconnected from the things I loved as an FFA member. I am constantly focused on getting through college, and I seem to lose sight of what makes me passionate about agriculture education. The convention brought all of that excitement back.”
For more about agricultural education at UGA, visit alec.caes.uga.edu/undergraduate/majors-certificates/agricultural-education.html. To learn more about the National FFA Convention and Expo, see convention.ffa.org/the-convention-experience/.