“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” – JFK
Rainy evenings are the best time to write; the words I type tick away on the keyboard like the raindrops pitter-pattering on our metal roof. I fall into a rhythm to where there is little worry about what I should be getting done outside, the deadlines I’ve stacked on the left side of my desk, or the meat for dinner that is still in the freezer – looks like soup and grilled cheese again! There’s a certain release for me in writing. Whether it’s for work or just for fun, scribbling on a pad or drafting an article, writing is a productive way to spend time and can be very relaxing.
Writing is a way to reflect back on my experiences. It helps me to process the thoughts in my head and commit those thoughts to paper with full intentionality. Writing is an activity that sparks gratitude. I often will feel most fulfilled by an experience after I’ve fully reflected in this way. I like writing other things, too. I love to log progress. I like to make lists. I articulate my ideas pretty well through a well-developed email. Writing is an exercise in compartmentalizing my thoughts and filing them away on documents that exist externally of my sometimes scattered, sometimes frazzled brain. It settles me.
What a year!
2020 was here and and almost gone in a flash it seems. We’ve struggled through many tough days and hard decisions. Disappointment is all around us. However, strong leaders keep moving and keep pushing forward. How exciting it is to now say that we, a new class of VALOR fellows, are starting an exciting adventure together. Learning and leading, leading and learning – you can’t have one without the other. In order to be an effective leader, we must endeavor to be continual learners. I’m excited to absorb as much as can about the agriculture industry and the people in it. I know through understanding different perspectives and being brave enough to share my own experiences, we can all grow and we can all contribute more to an industry we love.
Where am I coming from?
I was born and raised in Pulaski County, Virginia. I grew up with a lot of love and a lot of chores. I was raised in home that emphasized duty to family, work ethic and integrity. My parents run a full time farm (mostly beef cattle and small flock of sheep). I’ve watched my parents grow their business from the ground up – they served as great role models for all of us kids. We all grew up showing cattle, helping day to day on the farm, and caring for the ewes. The lambing season was the most intense of all. A successful lambing season would pay for a year’s college tuition. Mom and Dad also encouraged us to explore other passions and always supported us through band, choir, FFA, sports and church. I always felt like these varied experiences made me a well-rounded person, but not someone who might ever be content to settle into one thing forever.
After high school, I went to Virginia Tech and got my degree in Agricultural Sciences. During college, I had interned with Virginia FFA, Virginia 4-H and Virginia Cooperative Extension. What I learned about myself in those days was that a “jack of all trades, master of none” mentality works pretty well for people in the agriculture education world. You need to know a little bit about a lot of different things. There’s always a new challenge, always opportunities to help others reach their potential and always new ways to learn and grow. I accepted my first job as an ag teacher in 2012.
In 2017, I married my best friend. He knew how hard I worked and how much time, energy and love went into running an ag program and running it well. He understood how important “my work” was to me. “My work” is different than “my job”. My work was to help young people become good adults who will run our world one day. After teaching for the better part of seven years, I decided that I didn’t have to continue the same job forever to do the same work. I could spread my wings and see what other opportunities might be out there. My husband and I have goals to achieve and things we want to do – growing personally and as a team is the ONLY way to get there.
In 2019, I decided that I would work towards a career in behavioral therapy for children, specializing in autism spectrum disorder. Fate had its way with me though, and only a few weeks after I announced that I’d be leaving my teaching job, I was notified of some part time work at Virginia FFA. I thought this would be a good hold over for funds while I worked on my certifications and that I could contribute positively to the Virginia FFA team. I was nervous to jump back in after I had just told everyone that I was walking away, but I took the chance and I’m glad I did. The past year and half has opened my eyes, unlocked my brain, and given me the confidence to do bold things. In September of 2019, I accepted contract work with Virginia Ag in the Classroom. I get to drive around Southwest Virginia and teach children and teachers about the importance of agriculture. In December of that year I was able to extend my contract with Virginia Tech to continue working with ag teachers and FFA members around the state. I could have never imagined two years ago what my life would be like today. I’m grateful each and every day for the gentle push of those around me who encourage me and believe in me.
And so, with that encouragement and with my own desire to BE BETTER, I am here today as a new member of VALOR. I’m looking forward to learning all that I can so that I can give all I can – to my family, to AgEd, and to the children that I can impact. I can’t wait for the experiences and the friendships that will form over the next two years. I’m ready to harness opportunity so that I can bring more to the table.