Fueling Opportunities — Abby Burke

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Abby Burke said she decided as a freshman in high school that she wanted to become an agriculture education teacher.

“I wanted other kids to experience what I was getting to experience, show them opportunities, and teach them how many different jobs are available in agriculture,” she said.

As a dedicated agriculture student at Mississippi State University, Abby wrote a college paper about how animals had affected the medical industry with details about horses and diphtheria (for a non-ag class). When her professor had to look up the definition of sensitive horse anatomy to make sense of Abby’s paper, he informed Abby that she had made a distinct “impression” on his life.

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Abby is newly married to her husband, Brent, and she dreams of owning an alpaca. But for today, she is focused on #FuelingOpportunities by teaching students about the wide variety of agricultural careers as one of two ag instructors at the Perryville Area Career and Technology Center (CTC) in #AgriReady Perry County.

“I just want to be the best FFA advisor and teacher I can be,” Abby said, learning that role does not come without some experimenting. “I wanted to do a milk tasting lab for dairy science. I presented six types of milk, there were so many cups for each class, and apparently a lot of kids don’t like milk. There was even a ‘spilled milk’ incident. It was a terrible idea. I highly recommend that all first-year ag teachers work with a department partner if possible. It is great to collaborate and learn from a colleague. It would have been good if my co-teacher had said, ‘Abby, that’s a terrible idea’ when I planned the milk lab.”

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Perry County is an agricultural powerhouse with agriculture, agri-food, forestry and related industries generating $1.348 billion. The agricultural economy supports 5,743 jobs, 43.9% of the jobs, in Agri-Ready Perry County. The CTC offers a variety of science-based departments that create opportunities for students to learn hands-on career skills.

“Our students prove they really want to take ag class because it is quite a hike from the high school to the CTC building,” Abby said with a smirk.

Abby is excited about utilizing the CASE Curriculum for the CTC ag department.

“This curriculum combines ag science 1 & 2 into a single course called intro to agriculture, food, and natural resources which covers basics quickly and lets students specialize their agriculture learning sooner,” Abby said.

This course is her favorite to teach because she likes to watch new students get excited and find out what they are good at. When asked where she sees agriculture curriculum making great strides, her answer was ‘natural resources education’.

“There is more effort being made to teach our students about soil health and how we work with nature to make food. And it adds many more job opportunities to teach about!” Abby said.

Abby knows as a first-year teacher she is still learning a lot.

“I can’t be afraid to tell students that I don’t know something,” she said.

She is excited and grateful to be a part of an established agriculture program in a school system with a supportive administration and community.

“At the end of the day, it is about ag literacy. Students need to know the basics of where their food comes from. It will make them better consumers who can identify what they are eating, and look past fake news,” she said.

As an agriculture instructor, Abby is a part of the Missouri Vocational Agriculture Teachers Association. MVATA is a partner of Missouri Farmers Care, an agricultural organization with a vision that all Missourians will understand the truth about modern agriculture, food production and farm life and their connection to Missouri’s food security, economy and social well-being.

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