Megan Taylor nominated her Beyer High agriculture teacher Maddi Kerlee. Megan said Kerlee has given her "a new perspective for the FFA (Future Farmers of America) community." Megan also said Kerlee "is one of the best agriculture teachers you will find out there."
• Name: Maddi Kerlee
• Age: 42
• City of residence: Denair
• Occupation: Agriculture teacher at Beyer High School
• Family: Husband, Chip Kerlee, two sons, Kyle, 14, and Aaron, 11
• Education background: I graduated from California State University, Chico, with a major in animal science and a minor in agriculture business. While in the graduate program, I received my teaching credential from CSU, Chico, as well.
• Teaching experience: I have taught agriculture for eight years. I taught at San Benito High School in Hollister for four years. In between having children, I took a part-time position at Gonzales High School before teaching at my alma mater, Salinas High School in Salinas, for three years.
Why did you get into teaching? I think becoming a teacher is in my blood. My grandmother was a kindergarten teacher, my father recently retired after teaching agriculture for 31 years, and now it is my turn. I guess you can say it is in my genetic makeup.
What is your favorite thing about being a teacher? What I enjoy most about teaching is the hands-on application that agriculture teachers can apply in their classroom. Learning by doing is a powerful method of instruction. I also enjoy getting to know my students and being there for them if they need me.
What is the most challenging part of your job? The numbers. This is the first year that I have taught such large classes. Teaching 38 students in 38 desks can makes for a very full classroom!
What is the most important lesson you've learned? Patience. I feel a good teacher needs to take the good with the bad. We are all human. One day I might not be on top of my game, and the next day a particular student may be having a bad day. I think it is important to read into the situation and realize that we are each individuals.
What is your favorite teaching tool or activity? My favorite activity is "Where is that part?" I will bring in a live animal for a lab and the students will have to list the proper parts of the animal. I generally use powder or chalk to diagram numbers or letters on the animal, and the students need to identify them correctly.
What's next in your classroom? My agriculture science class will begin studying volcanoes, and agriculture biology will be learning about genetics. I am looking forward to the spring when the weather is more predictable. My classes can do labs on our school farm and gain hands-on knowledge with livestock.
What advice do you have for students? The best advice I can give any student is to follow directions. It sounds simple, but in reality it is the key to their success.
What advice do you have for parents? As a parent myself, we need to take the time to tell our children how special they are. I think if we give our children love and support with structure and boundaries, they will prosper.
What will it take to improve academic success in the valley? I am fairly new to this area, but in general, keeping students in school is so important.
How do you reach students not interested in school? I believe that motivation is the goal. If a teacher can find at least one thing that interests a child, it might be the deciding factor as to whether or not that child comes to school that day. It is amazing how a few positive words can affect a child.
What one area should schools put more emphasis on? Teaching skills for everyday life, such as analysis and critical thinking.
If you could change one thing about the current educational system, what would it be and why? Basic life skills often are not taught in the home environment. Students often do not know how to perform activities such as how to use a hammer, screwdriver, a pair of pliers or basic gardening tools. How to measure using a measuring cup, spoons or a liquid container are necessary in many aspects of everyday living. If education could be such that students learn the correlation between what they learn in classes such as math and what they do in their everyday lives, then education would be a more positive experience for many students.
What would surprise people about your job? That I can weld! As an agriculture teacher, we are asked to teach many different aspects of the industry. One of my most enjoyable courses to teach is agriculture fabrication and mechanics. Most people who know me would never guess that I can work with metal and construct machinery.
What are your future plans? I plan on broadening my horizons by attending a few agriculture seminars this summer. I have always enjoyed learning new skills and passing on what I have learned to my students.