Meet a master motivator
Every week day some 200 unsung heroes across Indiana spend their days teaching, and a large number of their after-school hours working with, FFA members who want to learn and excel. They are the agriculture teachers who work with Indiana’s FFA members, now totaling more than 9,000.
One of those teachers is Scott Jacobs, Eastern Hancock High School. Motorists driving north of Charlottesville have seen the FFA barn and backside of the school many times. The school property borders the south side of Interstate 70 between Greenfield and Knightstown.
• Scott Jacobs left ag teaching for a career in the ag industry.
• What makes him unusual is that Jacobs came back.
• His teams have won numerous judging and leadership awards.
Jacobs’ story is special. He taught as an ag educator, left, and then came back.
“The best thing I ever did professionally was leave teaching,” he relates. “And the second best thing I ever did was get back into it.”
Success breeds success
A true motivator, Jacobs loves to teach. Outside the classroom, over the years his judging teams have excelled in soils evaluation, livestock judging and crops judging, among others. His 2010 FFA crops judging team won the state contest in December.
Jacobs teaches alongside Natalie Schilling in a two-person department. His kids have also excelled at leadership events above the chapter level. For four years in a row in the mid-2000s, Eastern Hancock was home of the District VIII president, so Jacobs and Schilling were district advisers. His own son, Kyle, was district president during that stretch.
It’s in the classroom where he really gets excited, Jacobs says. Whether it’s teaching parliamentary procedure, about conduct of meetings, to eighth graders, or working with students of all grades getting animals ready to take to Louisville, Ky., each fall for the National Invitational Livestock Exposition, his excitement rubs off on students.
Back home again
Not many teachers who leave the profession ever return, at least not successfully. Why did Jacobs leave teaching in the first place? And why did he come back?
“I just wanted to see what the ag industry was like outside of teaching,” he relates. His kids were young at the time, and there’s no denying the increased demands of teaching and coaching FFA, and raising a family at the same time.
Jacobs was out of teaching for 14 years, working mostly in the agronomy field in agriculture. Then with his own family well established, he began to consider another change.
“By being away from it, I realized how much I enjoyed teaching,” Jacobs says. “It’s really been a fun experience.”
Like all public educators, ag teachers have felt unsettled with talk of proposed changes in funding and how schools operate. Yet Steve Hickey, a fellow ag teacher of Jacobs for years and now director of the Indiana FFA Association, believes that when the fog clears, it will reveal a bright future for both ag education and FFA, especially for teachers like Jacobs who understand and motivate students.
This article published in the April, 2011 edition of INDIANA PRAIRIE FARMER.