Although Kaylee Taylor did not grow up on a farm, she hopes to inspire the next generation of farmers.
A student teacher in Casa Grande Union High School’s ag program, Taylor brings her love of plant life to the classroom along with her first-hand experience with the National FFA Organization.
“I loved FFA when I was in high school,” Taylor said. “It definitely jump-started my interest in agricultural education.”
A student at the University of Arizona, Taylor expects to graduate in May with a degree in agricultural education.
She hopes to be a teacher with a classroom of her own.
But in the meantime, she said, she enjoys working as a student teacher and is learning much from CGUHS’s ag teacher, Steven Sipes.
“I wanted to do my student teaching at Casa Grande Union High School because of Mr. Sipes. He’s one of the best ag teachers in the business and a veteran teacher of ag teachers,” Taylor said. “He has a great reputation.”
Having a teacher that can ignite a passion for agriculture, science and learning in students helps ensure that young people go into various farming-related occupations, Taylor said.
Taylor joined FFA as a freshman at Highland High School in Gilbert.
She had no knowledge of farming but knew she liked plants.
“I’d go hiking with my family and visit the arboretum and I was always interested in the plants,” she said. “That was my main reason for joining FFA. I wanted to learn more about plants and gardening and growing things.”
Taylor stayed in FFA throughout high school, growing several plants, but also raising animals. She raised a goat, chickens and turkeys.
“I didn’t know much at the time,” she said. “I really learned a lot. FFA helped me further my knowledge of plants.”
She said her enjoyment of the program, and her belief that FFA is valuable to the future of farming, led to her desire to teach agriculture.
Once she graduates from UA, she hopes to find a job teaching agricultural science to high school or community college students. Eventually, she would like to pursue a master’s degree in agricultural education.
Agricultural education is different from other high school classes, Taylor said.
Teachers must combine basic science — two years of high school agricultural education equals one year of a laboratory science — with an appreciation for animals, horticulture, technology, communications and other subjects rolled into an FFA curriculum.
Also, teachers often work with the students in preparing the youngsters for FFA competitions, leadership conferences and education trips.
“There’s so much more to FFA than farming,” Taylor said.
Every day, Taylor arrives at CGUHS around 7:30 a.m. She prepares for class, then begins teaching around 9 a.m. Her day ends at about 1:25 p.m.
Only a few months into her experience as a student teacher, Taylor has developed some definite likes and dislikes.
“I don’t like to lecture and I don’t like to give tests,” she said. “There are better ways to evaluate student knowledge than testing and when it comes to learning, there are better ways for students to learn than through lectures.”
Instead, she focuses on hands-on activities such as making a soil filter or a leaf collection project.
She evaluates students through application as they do their work.
“It’s a better way of ensuring that students understand,” she said.
While Taylor said she enjoys her student teaching experience, she is also looking forward to the day when she has her own classroom.
“I will be an ag education teacher,” she said. “I’m looking forward to it.”