INA, Ill. — Is spending two days learning about how small engines operate worth six engines in the classroom?
For nearly a dozen southern Illinois agriculture teachers it sure was, thanks to Briggs & Stratton engine company and Power Distributors of Ohio.
The teachers gathered at Rend Lake College in Ina to receive lessons, handbooks, teaching manuals, a clear carburetor and some Briggs & Stratton swag. All their instructional time led up to an exercise where they reassembled a small engine.
Once the class was completed, each of the ag teachers also took home six engines, valued at $650 each.
Each teacher paid $300 for the opportunity, which was organized by Dean Dittmar of Facilitating Coordination in Agricultural Education, a program of the Illinois State Board of Education. The total value of the engines alone is $3,900, not including the books and other materials.
“This is a new program for Briggs & Stratton, with six scheduled for this year. This is our fourth one,” said Jay Blake, a Briggs & Stratton service trainer out of Milwaukee. “I work with a lot of teachers. They’re all thirsty for information that’s often hard to get.”
For Steeleville High School ag teacher and FFA adviser Sarah McKinnies, the experience creates new opportunities for her students.
“I knew a little bit about small engines, but not enough to be comfortable actually teaching the kids about the parts. This class will help me develop better curriculum and develop more hands-on opportunities for the kids,” she said.
Her class partner was Stephanie Zimmer, who starts her teaching career this fall at Altamont High School. She hasn’t had a mechanics class since her freshman year in college.
“I had learned more about car engines so now I can better relate to small engines. Most of the parts are the same, so that helps,” Zimmer said.