WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — A young girl’s love for horses and FFA was the impetus for a rewarding career teaching agriculture.
Sarah LaRose’s passion for all things equine began at age 10. Her military family moved to Virginia, where she began riding lessons at a local stable.
“When we moved to Connecticut, my guidance counselor at Ledyard High School said in passing, ‘Oh, we also have an agriculture program,’ and passed me a brochure with a horse and rider on the front,” she recalled.
LaRose was intrigued, and she signed up for ag classes right away. She later became involved with FFA, competing in creed speaking, extemporaneous public speaking, horse judging and forestry.
She served as a chapter and Connecticut State FFA officer, earned an American FFA Degree and studied animal sciences at the University of Connecticut.
“I wasn’t quite sure what to do for a career until one of my ag teachers said, ‘Why don’t you take my job when I retire?’” she said.
“I hadn’t really considered being an ag teacher before that, but it seemed to make a lot of sense to me.”
After earning her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction, she taught high school agriculture until 2015. She then pursued her Ph.D. in agricultural education and communication from the University of Florida.
LaRose now works as an assistant professor of agricultural sciences education and communication at Purdue University.
“I am an agricultural teacher educator, meaning I teach courses that prepare individuals interested in becoming an ag teacher how to teach ag,” she said.
“I work with a team of individuals here in the College of Agriculture, as well as the College of Education, to ensure that our students are as prepared as possible to be great ag teachers.”
LaRose teaches several classes, including Laboratory Practices in Agricultural Education, Curriculum Development in Agricultural Education and Methods of Teaching Agricultural Education.
“What brought me to agricultural education, and has kept me in it, are the myriad of transformational learning experiences and opportunities available to students in ag ed,” she said.
“I didn’t really get involved in FFA until the latter half of high school, but I was still able to participate in a variety of competitive events, serve in leadership roles, meet multiple U.S. secretaries of agriculture, the U.S. president, and make friends all over the country.
“I wanted my high school students to have those same opportunities. Now, I endeavor to prepare teachers who will help bring those opportunities to life for their own students.”
Her goal is “to prepare outstanding, learner-centered, inclusive agricultural educators, no matter what the setting.”
Students deserve to have an outstanding education, and that means needing excellent teachers, LaRose said.
“I design my coursework to focus on skill development so that students get to practice the skills of being an educator in a supportive environment,” she said.
“I believe that my students deserve my very best work, and it is my intent that they, too, provide their best work to their future students. I want our graduates to be successful now, during their student teaching placement and years beyond their graduation from Purdue.”
LaRose encourages young people interested in ag education to pursue their dream.
“We are always looking for new people to join the profession of agricultural education,” she said.
When asked what it takes to be a good teacher, LaRose said she could write an essay. She shared her short answer: “Be passionate about what you teach and excited to teach the students who you work with. Care for them as a person first and be fair, firm and consistent.”