Students explore the farm animal industry

BATESVILLE, Ind. — Cassie Wallpe, agriculture educator at Batesville High School, says it takes many things to be a good ag teacher.

Patience, compassion, change, devotion and persistence are all important. But above all else, you most love the process.

Wallpe shared her journey as a teacher with AgriNews.

Q: Tell us a bit about yourself.

A: I am finishing my 13th year of teaching, all at Batesville High School. I grew up in rural eastern Ohio, where we raised a medium-sized flock of Oxford and crossbred sheep. I was a 10-year 4-H member and actively involved as a 4-H camp counselor, junior fair board member and Farm Bureau youth.

My high school closed the ag program in the 1980s and did not have the option to take agriculture courses while in school.

It was my 4-H background and true passion for agriculture that drove me into the ag education program at The Ohio State University, where I completed both my associate’s and bachelor’s of science degrees. I did complete my master’s of science degree at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Q: Tell us about your job. What topics do students learn about in your class?

A: I currently teach a very student-driven schedule. Freshman have the opportunity to choose the course, “Principles of Agriculture,” which is an introductory class that teaches four to five weeks on each facet of agriculture.

I offer both animal science and advanced animal science, which are courses for students to explore the farm animal industry and where we get our food and clothing. We also offer plant and soil science, a greenhouse-based course.

Agriculture mechanics is a highly sought after course where students learn everything from old-fashioned hand tools to modern day three-phase electricity.

Our capstone agriculture course is agriculture business, where we focus on entrepreneurship and placement tactics and how to be successful in the workforce.

Q: When did you know this is what you wanted to do for a living?

A: As a senior in high school, I had a solid belief that I wanted nothing more than to talk about sheep production daily and have my summers off to go to sheep shows. Agriculture education was the perfect combination of both aspirations.

Q: What do you enjoy most about the job?

A: Watching students grow, mature, learn and develop a love for the industry.

Q: What is something that has surprised you in this job, or a lesson you’ve learned from students?

A: I always thought there was one way to coach students — through the years they have taught me the different ways to reach them and motivate them. I have had as much growth as an educator in my time and I’ve seen in the students.

Q: Do you see misconceptions about agriculture?

A: Yes, so many believe if they enroll in my classes, all I will talk about is farming. Agriculture today is so much more than the original row crop and livestock farming.

Q: What do you hope to achieve by the end of each school year?

A: One child develops a passion for agriculture, one child finds a friend that they can “really” relate to, one child passes a class, one child tries something new and is successful and one child feels at home in my department.

If I can positively impact five different students in one year, then my time with them is well worth everyone’s effort.

Q: What’s the hardest part about being a teacher?

A: Fulfilling everyone’s demands — administration, students, parents, officials, family and so forth

Q: What’s most rewarding?

A: Watching a kid that once couldn’t find their way, become a powerful speaker, peer leader and confident human being.

Q: What do you love about agriculture in Indiana?

A: Every county in Indiana thrives in one commodity or another within the industry. Drive in any direction and you will see agriculture impacting the lives of our citizens.

Q: What’s your favorite item on or in your classroom or desk?

A: I have three 5-by-7 picture frames that hold letters from previous students that were in the top 20 of their respective graduating classes. They had the opportunity to write a letter to their most influential educator.

Those three letters are very special to me, that each student chose their time in my area and in my company to highlight as “their best.”

Q: Anything else about your career you’d like to mention?

A: Impacting anyone’s life is irreplaceable, yet having a hand in impacting the number of students and educating them on agriculture is something that will make our world a better place for generations to come.