Natalie Ryan, agriculture teacher at North High School in Bakersfield, Calif., is one of only six individuals nationwide who received the National Association of Agricultural Educators Outstanding Young Member Award.
The award was presented at the 2016 NAAE annual convention in Las Vegas on November 30.
Ryan has been an agricultural educator at North High School since 2011. The two-teacher program drastically upgraded the department laboratory and classroom facilities in 2010 and 2012 to provide courses in agriculture and veterinary sciences, agriculture biology, communications, floral design, agricultural government and economics for more than 350 students each year.
"She has been instrumental in turning North High agriculture students and agriculture program into a model program that develops strong leaders and responsible individuals who make a difference in the lives of others,” Julie Beechinor, Frontier High School agriculture teacher, said.
She bases her lessons on knowledge application, rather than memorization and regurgitation, in hopes that students will continue learning outside of school. Students participate in at least one lab activity per week to give them hands-on experience using materials and technology they will experience in potential future careers and higher education.
Students also have diverse Supervised Agriculture Experience projects — independent practical applications of classroom knowledge related to agriculture. Projects range from vegetable gardens to working at the local animal shelter. In 2015, students accumulated 19,122 work hours and $48,441 in earnings through these projects. Ryan guides students through their projects and encourages them to dive into an area of agriculture in which they have a personal interest.