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Department of Agricultural & Extension Education

Physical Address:
Agricultural & Extension Education Building, Room 102
1134 West 6th Street

Mailing Address:
875 Perimeter Drive MS 2040
Moscow, ID 83844-2040

Phone: 208-885-6358

Fax: 208-885-4039




The Hoot, March 2017

Celebrating the past, present and future of agriculture education 

The Idaho agricultural education family has much to celebrate this time of year. We recently celebrated National FFA Week in Idaho and across the country. Past and present FFA members took time to recognize the impact that FFA has had on our lives. We have experienced secondary and post-secondary agriculture classes, FFA activities on the local, district, state and national level, had mentors who influenced our lives and made lifelong friends. It is a time when we both look back on our past experiences and celebrate all that FFA has to offer today’s high school agricultural education students. 

We would never have had the chance to celebrate National FFA Week without the visionary leadership of agricultural and political leaders over 100 years ago. On February 23, 1917, the U.S. Congress passed the Smith-Hughes Vocational Education Act which established federal funding for vocational agriculture instruction in America’s high schools. How could anyone have ever guessed that agricultural education instruction and the FFA organization would have grown to its current state and influence millions of students over the past century? 

Earlier this week the country celebrated National Agriculture Day. This is another chance for those involved in the vast agricultural industry, agricultural education and the FFA organization to take a moment to ponder on the importance of agriculture in our daily lives. A few years ago, the Chrysler Corporation aired the commercial “So God Made a Farmer” narrated by the late great Paul Harvey. That commercial visually expressed the sentiment of the importance of agriculture. With most citizens far removed from the farm, they don’t always think about the importance of the food, fiber and natural resources industry to the future of America. 

These events, the 100th Anniversary of the Smith-Hughes Vocational Education Act, National FFA Week and National Agriculture Day, are just three examples of how we need to reflect on the importance of agricultural education, FFA and the future of agriculture. Thank you for being a part of this amazing industry.

Go Vandals!

Jim Connors, AEE Department Head


Jeremy Falk, Ph.D. is being promoted to associate professor in the Department of Agricultural and Extension Education. Falk joined the faculty at the University of Idaho in 2011. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in teacher education, FFA/SAE programs, agricultural leadership and communication. He developed and leads the department’s undergraduate research program for students in both the agricultural education and agricultural science, communication and leadership major.

Falk will also be recognized on April 25 as a recipient of the University of Idaho President’s Mid-Career Faculty Award. This award is to recognize faculty who have demonstrated a commitment to outstanding scholarship, teaching and engagement. Recipients are considered among the university’s most gifted faculty members who continually serve as role models, a source of inspiration for students and whose scholarship contributes to the intellectual development and lives of people in Idaho and globally. Kattlyn Wolf, associate professor, also received this elite award in 2016.

Congratulations to our students that were selected as departmental winners and will be nominees for their respective award categories at the CALS Awards Banquet on April 24. We feel very fortunate to have many outstanding students in our department.

  • Outstanding Freshman — Bishal Thappa
  • Outstanding Sophomore — Bret Kindall
  • Outstanding Junior — Liz Bumstead
  • Outstanding Senior — Sammi Jo Simms

By the Numbers

AEE has 107 undergraduates; 51 are majoring in agricultural education; 48 majoring in agricultural science, communication and leadership. 27 of our undergraduates were named to the Fall 2016 CALS Dean’s List. We have 6 graduate students and a total of 9 scholarships dedicated specifically to AEE students.

Collegiate FFA Update

FFA national
Written by Maggie Elliot — 
The Department of Agricultural and Extension Education played an important role at the National FFA Convention and Expo in November. Faculty assisted with the Agriscience Fair, Prepared Public Speaking and Parliamentary Procedure CDE, of which nine Collegiate FFA members helped to facilitate. Very few universities offer agricultural education students the opportunity to facilitate CDE’s on a national level.

Members ran scorecards, took notes, recorded time and graded minutes, but perhaps the most valuable aspect of working at the convention was examining the interactions between advisors and students in the competitive environment.

“Experiential learning is a cornerstone of what we expect of our teachers and by using this experience to develop our teachers, they become witness to its effectiveness,” said associate professor Jeremy Falk. “Our students conduct daily reflections as a group and their insights are above par, including interactions between students and teachers; the level of organization needed to prepare students to compete on a national stage; and the importance of FFA in preparing future agriculturists.”

“We were surrounded by hundreds of ag advisors who were coordinating thousands of FFA members, all applying a vast spectrum of coaching methods,” said CFFA member Bret Kindall, who used the experience to enhance his insight of techniques used by instructors to prepare students for the premier contests. 

“As an FFA advisor, I want to instill a work ethic, a drive to succeed, within students without sacrificing a friendly atmosphere for students to enjoy,” Kindall said. “I spent the week observing different techniques and identifying the factors that would shape my desired relationship with future students.”

Kindall and Erin Peek distributed surveys to CDE teams in order to identify coaching behaviors and their relation to successful teams as part of an undergraduate research project.

“It was a unique opportunity to work behind the scenes of National FFA,” said Kindall.

In the Spotlight

Kasee SmithWritten by Maggie Elliot — Kasee Smith, assistant professor in AEE, became inspired to pursue a career in agricultural education as a high school student, witnessing firsthand the effects of both a dispassionate FFA advisor as well as one who took the students’ best interests to heart and exhibited a drive which emboldened students to succeed. From experiencing the difference a great teacher could make on programs and individuals, she chose to combine her love of agriculture with her desire to work with people.

Smith taught in Utah for 11 years before moving on to obtain her doctoral degree in agricultural education. While it was hard to leave her high school classroom and miss the daily interactions with students, she notes it’s remarkably fulfilling to watch her former students perform their roles as agricultural instructors. This “grandma effect” helped her realize she can have a broader impact and justified the transition to a post-secondary level. 

Her favorite element of teaching is facilitating light bulb moments in students through active learning strategies. In her free time, she loves to watch Discovery Channel and National Geographic, occasionally binge watches Netflix programs, reads and rides her horses. She and her husband, Randy, live outside Moscow with their daughters Samantha and Quincy.

Steve WilderWritten by Liz Bumstead — Steve Wilder, alumni, received the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Agriculture for Education Advocacy at the Larry Branen Idaho Ag Summit in February. He received this award for his years of service and his dedication to bettering Idaho agriculture through educating the next generation of agriculturists. 

Wilder is a proud University of Idaho alumnus that  received a bachelor’s and master’s degree in agriculture education from the Agricultural and Extension Education Department. 

He has dedicated the last 37 years to teaching agriculture education at Meridian High School. There, he has positively influenced thousands of students involved in the Meridian Agriculture, Science and Technology program. 

He also played a key role in helping to pass the 2015 Agricultural Education Initiative, which provided an additional $2 million each year for secondary agriculture education in Idaho. 

Even in the midst of the celebration, Wilder was humbled by the award and said “It is all of our responsibility to help prepare the next generation of community leaders. As the old saying goes ‘It takes a village.’”

Professional Development

Teacher Semantics

Written by Kasee Smith — You’ve heard the saying, “it’s not what you said, it’s how you said it.” In truth, it IS what you say that makes a big difference in your teaching success. The words you choose when speaking with your students play a large role in setting the tone in your classroom, developing rapport with students and clarifying expectations. This article will briefly examine some teaching semantic tips, and will highlight small changes you can make to the things you say in your class to stimulate a better experience for students. Let’s examine some simple changes you can make to your teaching vocabulary related to asking questions and giving directions.


Students likely have many questions to ask you while you are teaching. Have you considered the words you use to open the floor for questions? Consider the following shifts in word choice:

  • Situation — Opening the floor for questions
  • Instead of saying — “Are there any questions?”
  • Say — “What questions are there?” or “What are the questions?”
  • Rationale — Saying “are there any questions?” has a negative connotation. Built in to the statement is an unwritten assumption that there should not be questions. The second statements are phrased to imply that questions are expected. In one study, shifts in this type of request for questions yielded 80 percent more questions than when students were asked “are there any questions?”

Giving Directions

Giving clear and concise directions can be incredibly helpful to shorten the time required for students to perform classroom tasks. Researchers have determined that there is a proper formula for giving directions to students based on age. The “magic formula” for instructions at the secondary student level is:

By making just a few changes to the words you use in your class every day, you can have a lasting impact on student behavior, decrease classroom transition time and make your job just a little bit easier.

Helpful steps —

  1. Tell the students a key word. Remind students that they should only listen until they hear the key word. Example: When I say GO
  2. Give the students no more than three tasks to complete. Research has shown that cognitive development in adolescents cannot focus on more than three tasks successfully. Example: Collect a worksheet and a roll of tape, and return to your seat.
  3. Have a student repeat the instructions. Researchers have found that hearing the instructions from a peer reinforces them better than from the authority source. Example: Bob, could you remind the class what they will do when they hear the signal word?
  4. Allow for clarification. Example: What questions do you have about the instructions?
  5. Give signal word. Example: Go.

By making just a few changes to the words you use in your class every day, you can have a lasting impact on student behavior, decrease classroom transition time and make your job just a little bit easier.

Words from the Wise

Trent Van LeuvenTrent Van Leuven — I changed my major at the University of Idaho from ag economic to ag education after Mr. Pratt at Nezperce High School told me that I did a great job on a workshop and that I should consider teaching agriculture. I had over 700 miles to think about it and had my decision by the time I made it home for Thanksgiving.

Teaching provides many fulfilling moments. In one class I had a student who never spoke outside of his home present the FFA Creed (to the astonishment of his peers) which began a cascade of speaking in public. Last year I worked on a surprise for a student as she won the Culver’s Essay competition. Each year I enjoy seeing students marvel at the size of the FFA membership in the opening session at the National FFA Convention — in which I get to remark “this is only one of three opening sessions because we can’t fit everyone in here.”

At Mackay High School I teach Intro to Ag, Fish and Wildlife, CSI Agri 109, CSI Agri 104, Intro to Ag Mech, Welding, Horticulture, Leadership and Ag Comm. The program has a surplus yard, five acre land lab under development, calf and lamb raising facilities, a hydroponic greenhouse, a high tunnel greenhouse, a fish lab and a welding shop. I enjoy working with students and providing opportunities for them to develop SAE projects. My favorite CDE’s are agronomy, marketing and dairy evaluation.

Liz RussellLiz Russell — A colleague of mine recently asked me for a quote on why I am an ag teacher/FFA advisor. Here is what I replied: “I teach ag for every kid that doesn’t get to grow up on a farm. Ag classes and the FFA organization are the next best way to become the person you need to be.” 

I have taught the past five years at one of the largest agriculture programs in the western United States in a city quickly moving away from its agricultural roots. Meridian, Idaho was recently listed as the 10th fastest growing city in the country. Ironically, as the population of this area becomes more removed from agriculture, the school district program that educates about it continues to grow.

I teach with eleven other agriculture teachers from five different high schools in the West Ada School District and co-advise the Meridian FFA Chapter with those same eleven individuals. It is not unusual to have class sizes of more than 35 students, and our FFA chapter usually has more than 200 dues paying members. The majority of our students have zero agricultural background and knowledge.

The best part about my job, and more specifically, teaching at Meridian, is when students that have no direct tie to agriculture become positive advocates for what agriculturalists do and why. As an FFA advisor, it is also invaluable to work with a great team of supportive colleagues while helping guide such a diverse FFA chapter. I firmly believe that an agricultural lifestyle instills the most important traits into a person.

Meet Our Student Teachers

Max BlitmanMax Blitman
Location: Meridian, Idaho
Favorite class: Welding 2

  • Why is this your favorite class? “Welding 2 is my favorite class because I am able to work one-on-one with students and help them better understand welding.”

Daniel HeikkilaDaniel Heikkila
Location: American Falls, Idaho
Favorite class: Welding

  • What is your favorite part of student teaching? “I truly enjoy building the relationships with my students while continually pushing them to strive for excellence.”

Sammi Jo SimsSamantha Jo Sims
Location: Tonasket, Washington
Favorite class: Freshman Ag Science

  • What are you looking forward to? “GRADUATION! And securing my first teaching job. This is what we have been preparing for after all!”

Olivia ZurcherOlivia Zurcher
Location: Ellensburg, Washington
Favorite class: Ag Biology

  • What is the highlight of your student teaching experience? “A highlight from my student teaching experience was me taking six of my FFA kids to the 212/360 conference. I have never seen so much enthusiasm and passion in making our chapter better. Afterwards they developed a plan, explained to me why they believe it would work and then continued to come up with great ideas for the chapter!”

Upcoming Events

  • March 25: UIdaho Bound, Moscow
  • April 1: UIdaho Bound, Moscow
  • April 5-8: Idaho FFA State Leadership Conference, Twin Falls
  • April 21-22: Moms’ Weekend, Moscow
  • April 24: CALS Awards Banquet
  • April 25-28: NAAE Region 1 Conference, Sheridan, Wyoming
  • March 13: UI Spring Commencement, Moscow

From the editors

Maggie ElliottLiz BumsteadWe are excited to share our story with you. For many reasons, we have titled this newsletter “The Hoot” and hope you continue to be part of our family. The Hoot will be distributed on a quarterly basis. — Liz Bumstead and Maggie Elliot are both majoring in agricultural science, communication and leadership. The newsletter is supervised by Jeremy Falk.

James Connors

Department Chair and Professor

Ag & Extension Education, Room 101



Department of Agricultural & Extension Education

Physical Address:
Agricultural & Extension Education Building, Room 102
1134 West 6th Street

Mailing Address:
875 Perimeter Drive MS 2040
Moscow, ID 83844-2040

Phone: 208-885-6358

Fax: 208-885-4039