As I stood in front of my classroom yesterday, already dripping in sweat from writing the objective on the board, I looked out on my new students actively working on their warm up and I couldn’t help but smile to myself as I thought about how different my life was now. For starters, I walk to work every day rather than drive, I hand write my lesson plans rather than type them on a computer, some days I have to yell over top the pounding rain on the tin roof and others we have class outside because the heat in the classroom is unbearably hot, I have no electricity, no powerpoint, no smartboard….just 45 wooden desks and a chalkboard. But in some crazy way, I am living the dream.
I’ve always known that I wanted to work in agriculture, and as a child showing my animals in the 4-H county fair I had decided at a very young age that there was no other field for me. I’ve always known that I wanted to teach, the feeling of satisfaction that you get when you finally see it click for your students and when you see them actually enjoy learning is one of the most rewarding things on this planet. And like many people in this world, I’ve always known that I wanted to help others and make a difference in my community. And so I dreamed of becoming a high school agriculture teacher or a 4-H or agriculture extension agent…what better way to combine my passions for agriculture and teaching with my desire to make a difference in this world? I’m sure many of my fellow agriculture educators can relate.
I received my BS in Animal Sciences and Agricultural Sciences, and my MS in Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communications, and then for two and a half years I worked as an extension agent in my home county in Maryland. It was what I had always dreamed of and yet something was still missing. The truth was that I had also always secretly dreamed of working in a developing country. One international trip in high school and the idea had taken hold in my heart. I saw beauty like I had never seen before and I realized I loved to travel, I loved to be immersed in a culture that was so opposite my own, and I loved making new friends in other parts of the world. But I also saw poverty like I had never seen before and I saw a need, a need for better agricultural methods, a need for building up agricultural leaders within these communities, a need for better opportunities for education of youth, a need I realized I could actually do something about. And so last spring after much thought, I quit my dream job in pursuit of another….becoming an AgriCorps Fellow in rural West Africa.
Currently, my husband (a former Maryland high school agricultural teacher/FFA advisor) and I are serving as Fellows for AgriCorps, which is an organization whose mission is to “connect American agricultural professionals to the demand for experiential, school-based agricultural education in developing countries.” As AgriCorps Fellows we each have three roles in our community: 1) a high school agriculture teacher, 2) an agricultural extension agent, and 3) a 4-H/FFA advisor. Every week we are still lesson planning, teaching, networking, training leaders, planning events, fundraising, managing volunteers, researching, writing articles, advertising, coaching teams, facilitating discussions, diagnosing diseases, talking with farmers, chasing livestock, laughing with students, and crashing after a long week’s work just like we did back home. Although our current surroundings may look completely different than they did before, our goal is still the same: to educate people about agriculture with the hope for a better tomorrow.
Want to learn more about the mission of AgriCorps or about how can become an AgriCorps Fellow? Visit AgriCorp’s website: https://agricorps.org.
*Note, this blog was posted on the official AgriCorps blog on November 28th, 2016. I have copied and pasted it here again for my records. Please share it with someone who you think may be interested in becoming an AgriCorps Fellow. Deadline for spring applications is coming up soon!