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ATEC teacher celebrates national award

Posted: December 31, 2013 4:08 p.m.
Updated: January 1, 2014 5:00 a.m.

Earlier this year, Katie Gilson learned she was one of 41 recipients of the National Association of Agricultural Educators’ (NAAE) Teachers Turn the Key (TTTK) Award. With the award came the chance for Gilson -- selected from a nationwide pool of applicants -- to travel to Las Vegas to attend the NAAE’s annual convention.

Gilson returned from that trip saying she was “very honored” to win the prestigious award.

“When I won for the state, I was very appreciative and didn’t think it would go any further than that,” Gilson said. “When I found out about winning nationally for our region … I was very excited to represent the region at the conference.”

The TTTK award program brings together agriculture educators with four or fewer years of teaching experience and immerses them in three days of professional training and development courses addressing issues specific to the beginning years of a teaching career.

Gilson described her own experience with the TTTK program as “excellent.” She said she had attended several professional development workshops in the past, but “this program was the most beneficial. The program was taught by a couple of agriculture teachers that have been teaching for over 10 years.”

Among some of the topics Gilson said were covered in the program were what agricultural activities could be taught in the classroom; how to balance one’s personal life with work; and how to incorporate reading comprehension activities into daily lessons. Gilson said the best thing she gained from taking part in the program was “networking with other agriculture teachers that share the same experience I do. We share different ideas with each other and gather advice from each other in experiences such as sub plans, greenhouse ideas, fundraisers and different Future Farmers of America (FFA) activities.”

TTTK participants also have the opportunity to become involved in NAAE leadership and network with other NAAE convention attendees. TTTK awardees depart from the program with a wealth of knowledge as well as peer cohorts, both of which enhance their professional development and performance, according to the program.

Gilson said attending the TTTK conference was her first experience with the NAAE, but said she received so much from the experience she wants to become more involved. Gilson has been involved with the South Carolina Association of Agricultural Educators (SCAAE) which hosts the annual agricultural teacher’s conference in July. SCAAE has also proven to be a beneficial experience for Gilson as she has met teachers throughout the state with whom she communicates for advice with various questions and issues that arise.

Gilson has been the agriculture teacher at ATEC since the program began in 2011. Through partnerships she has developed with local agri-businesses, Gilson’s students receive on-the-job training at internships and job shadowing experiences. She also invites guest speakers to her classes to provide her students insight into different agricultural employment possibilities.

“The main thing I want my students to get out of taking a course in agriculture is learning how to grow a garden and providing fresh vegetables and fruits for their family,” Gilson said of directing and motivating her students. “I think it’s very important for everyone to know where their food comes from and everyone needs to thank a local farmer for their hard work in providing food for everyone else.”

Gilson said she selected this particular approach to instructing because she wants to provide students with the opportunities to learn more about a career so they can make better decisions regarding higher education. She also encourages her students to become involved in the FFA, because it “has a lot to offer students from scholarships, leadership growth, career success and travel opportunities.”

ATEC Director Chet Horton said Gilson “is an outstanding educator and has done an excellent job in implementing an agriculture program on our campus. She is very deserving and a true champion of agriculture education in the state of South Carolina.”

Gilson says she loves teaching at ATEC and originally became interested in the subject of agriculture after attending Clemson University’s Animal Science program.

“When I was growing up I wanted to be a veterinarian,” she said. “It was my junior year (of college) when I decided being a veterinarian wasn’t for me since I didn’t want to be bitten and scratched every day.”

Gilson said she then spoke with a professor to discuss other options. She decided to pursue a Masters in Agricultural Education.

“I enjoyed every class in the Agricultural Education program,” Gilson said; she said teaching has been a wonderful experience and “most days it doesn’t feel like a job. My students and my FFA members make the job great and fun.”

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