Standing in the new agricultural building on the Payson High School campus, Jadee Garner could easily be mistaken for a senior. Tall and slim, she wears her hair in a ponytail with two daisy flower pins jauntily placed behind her ear. Her voice sounds younger than her years, but she runs her classroom with direction and creativity, winning Outstanding First-year Teacher awards from both Gila County and the Arizona Agriculture Teachers Association.
Her students couldn’t agree more: “We’ve taken animal science classes from Jadee Garner for two years. She thinks outside the box. She has more hands-on learning,” said Amy Korth, a member of Garner’s Leadership Team for agricultural sciences.
“She has fresh ideas,” said Katrina Kueny, another Leadership Team member.
“She’s awesome,” the rest of the group chimes in.
Today, Garner has brought from her Round Valley ranch two horses, a Brangus bull (a mixture of the Brahman and Angus breeds), a goat named Codee and a calf named Peanut. Turns out Peanut and Codee are inseparable — they even sleep together.
Garner raised Peanut from birth because his mother refused to allow him to drink her milk. Peanut hams it up for the camera. Codee, wanders next to Garner butting her.
“Right now he wants attention from me. Once I give him a scratch and some loving, he’ll be fine. Just like a dog,” said Garner leaning down to pet Codee. Satisfied with the attention, Codee moves off to find something else to check out.
Garner was born and raised in Sedona and decided early on her work would involve animals. She worked at the Oak Creek Small Animal Clinic starting out as a kennel kid, cleaning kennels and walking dogs, ending up a vet assistant. “I worked for the vet for so long, I decided that wasn’t my mission. I wanted to work with people more,” said Garner.
Garner created her award-winning curriculum by melding hands-on learning with academic core standards and membership in FAA (formerly Future Farmers of America — now the National FFA Organization).
“I want to teach the total program. I see the kids going everywhere,” said Garner.
The students who take four years of animal sciences can become a veterinarian, biologist, mechanic, chemist, political leader, welder, journalist, entrepreneur, teacher, or work with livestock or wildlife, and these are just a few of the directions possible with an animal sciences background.
“After I graduate, I want to run for state FFA office. Then become a bush pilot in Alaska,” said Kalynn Roggenstein, another Leadership Team member.
“Being an officer with FFA, you get to meet people from everywhere,” said Korth.
“I got to meet the governor,” said Carter Tatum another member of the Leadership Team.
According to the FFA Web site (www.ffa.org), the organization started in 1928 with the intent of educating future generations to feed the growing U.S. population.
Today the organization helps students explore their talents to discover a career path in the agricultural field.
FFA agricultural education plays an integral part of the PHS animal sciences advanced classes. The program includes classroom and laboratory work, FFA membership and work experience through the supervised agricultural experience (SAE) program.
Every year, the FFA chapter at PHS offers students the chance to coordinate their FFA activities at meetings that teach public speaking and the use of parliamentary procedure.
Students elect officers for each level to lead the classes’ activities. FFA members receive awards for their achievements. At the annual national convention, FFA members from around the country meet to compare notes and share successes from the year.
“I love the trips, even if you only attend the Peoria minor camp,” said Roggenstein.
“I went to Washington, D.C. and met senators and the former head of FFA,” said Kueny.
“The hands-on experience is the best,” said Tatum.
Students told the story of an alum that brought a snout, trachea and lungs taken from a pig in his slaughter business. He then breathed into the snout and showed the students how the lungs worked.
This year Garner plans on raising chickens, growing meal worms AND doing dissections. In her welding class, she will teach the kids about what sort of clothing not to wear because it’s flammable by lighting different fabrics on fire.
Besides the enthusiasm of her students, the rigor of the FFA program, and her own contributions, Garner values the support of the community. Garner has an advisory committee with a mixture of parents, members from the industry, teachers and school administrators who suggest what to do to make the program its best.
“The community, including Tonto Basin and Pine-Strawberry, have a vested interest in keeping the agricultural program going,” said Garner.