02/16/17 — Rosewood teacher chosen for state education position

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Rosewood teacher chosen for state education position

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on February 16, 2017 9:18 AM

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A successful agriculture teacher at Rosewood High School has been named eastern region agriculture education coordinator, taking her skills on the road to help other teachers in similar programs.

Allison Jennings spent the past 11 years at Rosewood, her first teaching job.

In some ways, it had been an unexpected career field. Growing up in Morehead City, she did not come from a farming background.

She was influenced by encouraging teachers and the FFA program in high school.

Her role at Rosewood encompassed animal science, horticulture and ag mechanics -- which included shop work, welding, metalwork, woodworking, plumbing and concrete -- as well as agri-science, which covers environmental science and biotechnology.

"At the beginning, I did have a little bit of a struggle because I was the first female ag teacher at Rosewood and so the students and the community, they weren't used to a female being in the shop teaching electricity or welding," she says now. "But once I proved myself -- yes, I can weld and I could fix things -- they would bring me things and I could fix them up just like the teacher before me.

"It didn't take long for everybody to hop on board, and I was just another teacher, basically."

The effort wasn't entirely foreign, she noted, as she also "married into it" with husband, Brent, who live near Kenly with their two children.

"We raised livestock, sheep and goats," she said. "Not only did I teach about it, but we were also practicing some of the things on our own farm."

As she immersed herself in teaching, she amassed a bit of recognition, being named Teacher of the Year for the school and then in 2008-2009 the district's CTE (career and technical education) high school teacher of the year. She received the N.C. Outstanding Young Member award in 2010, given by the National Association of Agricultural Educators to a teacher in the profession less than six years who demonstrated significant progress toward establishing a successful agricultural education program.

In 2013, she was recipient of the state's Outstanding Agricultural Education Teacher Award by a professional organization of agricultural educators.

Now she has been plucked from the classroom to the regional job through N.C. State University, with an office in Smithfield and serving 51 counties east of Raleigh.

"I help coordinate regional and state FFA activities, competitions and leadership functions and then the biggest part of my job is working with teachers and just basically being a resource for them," she said. "Right now, I'm on the road quite a bit visiting with new teachers.

"We have the same problem that a lot of other programs have and that is teacher retention. A good chunk of our teachers have less than five years experience. So a good part of my job is going to see them, reaching out and showing them different resources, working with them and really doing whatever they need."

Being in a position to encourage other educators held a special appeal, she said.

"I have been working with new teachers. I've had a lot of student teachers, both from N.C. State and University of Mount Olive," she said. "I've just seen the need for this position and somebody being in it who's really passionate about agriculture education and just being able to show some excitement for teaching  and the profession so that we can keep these teachers in the classroom."

She left the classroom mid-January and traded in lesson plans for road maps as she travels where needed.

"I will help with anything," she said. "I have been called in for teachers having classroom management struggles."

Her love of teaching has not gone away, she admits, and one of the highlights of traveling around has been to visit with teachers and see the wide range of agriculture programs offered in the state.

"I could talk to teachers before when I was a teacher, and we would (talk) about the similarities and the differences but just stepping foot into their classroom and seeing the different ways they do things and also just the different facilities is really kind of cool -- community gardens and aquaculture systems and hydroponics that I didn't have -- that's really kind of neat, being able to see all the different aspects of our programs."

Mrs. Jennings will still have ties to Wayne County, as it is one of her territories, since five high schools and four middle schools offer agriculture education. Rosewood is among the schools, she noted.