A Back Page subject should generate a thousand words and half a dozen photos and Katie Greenwood and the Future Farmers of America (FFA) certainly meet those requirements. Greenwood is a Cedaredge High School (CHS) teacher who serves as agriculture (ag) instructor and FFA advisor. Asked to interview, she praised her students for 90 minutes. Asked for photographs of recent activities, she provided 50.
The new school year has just begun and it’s shaping up to be a busy one. This is Greenwood’s 12th year at CHS and she’s already teaching and planning, mentoring and juggling — literally juggling — what she describes as a “three-circle model.”
Ag education is a multifaceted endeavor which includes three distinct, yet integrated functions: curriculum taught in the ag classroom; “intra-curricular” FFA activities; and out-of-school supervised ag experiences (SAE). Students from freshmen to seniors participate in a stimulating variety of classroom and experiential learning.
All this makes for a busy school year that focuses on imparting knowledge, building confidence and leadership skills, and helping students reach their potential. These positive themes are familiar to Greenwood who spent her youth immersed in agriculture. She grew up north of Denver, in Kersey, where her family still raises and shows Appaloosa horses. As a young girl, she spent 10 years in 4H and joined FFA as a high school freshman.
“I inherited my passion for agriculture from my ag teachers,” she said. “Ag teachers challenge students and build relationships with kids and change lives. I love working with kids and becoming part of their success — watching them realize their potential and take ownership of their program and their future.”
Inspired by her ag instructors, Greenwood knew by her sophomore year in high school that she wanted to teach. She earned her undergraduate degree and masters in agriculture education at Colorado State University. She envisioned herself teaching on the Front Range but an interview in Cedaredge convinced her to move to the Western Slope. She was especially impressed when her interview included a chance to chat with two young CHS ag students.
“That did it for me,” she said. She smiled and then grew misty as she began to sort through photos. “I think about all the cool and dynamic kids I’ve had in ag. Each year at graduation I know I’m going to miss them. And then I think about the quiet ones who blossomed and I know I’ll miss them, too.”
She recalled an example of how students mature. Each year a few students struggle with the welding curriculum. They are petrified and convinced they will never master the skill but “in just four weeks, their self-confidence grows.” It’s a phenomenon she constantly observes. Shy students become public speakers, upperclassmen show leadership by fostering younger students, and students interact with their community.
Community service is the main focus of the CHS FFA chapter. There isn’t space to list every community interaction but here’s a brief sample of annual activities:
• Taste of Ag Tailgate Party for alumni and community members (held this year prior the 7 p.m. Sept. 13 CHS homecoming game).
• Catering banquets for community groups including the State Trap Club Shoot, the Surface Creek Valley Historical Society, the Rod & Gun Club banquet, Delta Elks Lodge, Delta County Livestock Association, and others.
• Interacting with Horizons Care Center (playing cards with elderly residents, giving manicures, Christmas caroling, etc.).
• Helping at the Surface Creek Food Bank during Christmas box distribution and maintaining a classroom food bank.
• Adopting a family to provide a Christmas meal and gifts and sending appreciation care packages to overseas military.
• Working with community coaches to learn how to evaluate a variety of ag-related skills from floral design to veterinary science.
• Hosting FFA week including two major fund-raising events: the annual oyster fry and member auction where students provide eight-hours of labor in exchange for a donor contribution.
• Working in the community to enhance career development skills.
Ag education broadens students’ horizons. Each year students have an opportunity to attend the FFA Nationals convention. This year Greenwood will accompany eight students to Indianapolis, Indiana, on a trip that may, for some, be a life-changing experience. Last year’s national convention welcomed 65,000 students and included an address by President Trump and entertainment by Garth Brooks plus side trips to thoroughbred farms and the grounds of the Kentucky Derby.
“Not only that,” Greenwood added, “But six of the kids from last year had never been on an airplane and four had never been out of state.”
Katie and Jared, her husband of six years, have two daughters: Annabelle who is 4 and 2-year-old Cassidy. Jared works for S&E Ward’s Landscaping Management. The family lives in Eckert.
Katie loves her job and, like many teachers, she has a wish list. For one thing, she thinks her program would benefit from having a second teacher. She hastens to add that Delta County School District 50J is very supportive of agriculture education and that the county is blessed to have three strong ag programs including CHS’ and high school programs at Delta and Hotchkiss. But she calculates that last year she logged 1,600 hours outside the classroom and — since one of the hallmarks of an effective ag program is individual attention to students — she can’t help but imagine how much she could accomplish with an extra pair of hands.
So having an extra person would be ideal and, as long as she’s dreaming, she has another idea. She’d love to add a commercial kitchen to her classroom to support the FFA’s community catering as well as providing practical experience in food science and food safety and handling.
Well, she can dream can’t she? Teachers are born optimists and Katie is optimism personified.