Not Just Cows and Plows
October 20, 2020
Written By Neal Fandek
Dean Reichel, ag teacher and FFA advisor at New Bloomfield R-III, goes above and beyond to make a difference.
That’s a cliché in today’s cynical age, but it’s true in his case. He’s making lesson plans for eighth to 12th grade ag education classes that, thanks to COVID-19, he knows may never happen, and coaches a dizzying array of FFA activities from public speaking to trap shooting to equine science.
Reichel says FFA is like a tent: “There’s a lot of room for everyone, no matter what your talents, background or inclination.” Some of his students find FFA overwhelming, he says. “But the ones who put something into it, who take that extra step outside their comfort zone, find a lot of satisfaction. That’s why we do what we do.”
Take recent graduate Heath Brandt, an FFA Proficiency in Equine Science winner who also entered an extemporaneous public speaking contest this past spring. His topic: Whether plant-based meat products should be marketed alongside traditional beef and dairy products (he argued yes). And he won.
Eloquence helps, but Brandt says Reichel helped him prepare for four years by teaching him “how to be confident and believe in my natural ability for communication … He gave me the resources and tools to be competitive and encouraged me along the way, although he has helped prepare me for life even more. His lessons in the classroom have been far trumped by the lessons of life he has shared with me over the years.”
Reichel has been so influential that Brandt started this fall as an agriculture education and communications major at the University of Missouri.
Then there’s 2018-20 FFA chapter president Kalyn Davis, a national 4-H shooting winner. Davis was in a horrible car accident in August 2019 that resulted in her being airlifted to the MU Health Care Level I Trauma Center. Her family was saddled with crushing bills.
Reichel, the local and statewide FFA, and community responded with fundraising efforts that yielded about $8,000. “An amazing thing for a little school like ours,” Reichel says. “One of the cool things about living in a small rural area is that people pull together.” Davis has now recovered.
Reichel also inspired her to pursue the same career path at Mizzou. “The dream is to one day follow in his footsteps and be half the teacher and role model he is!” she says. “He truly molds his teaching style to each individual student. He is the teacher you can count on for absolutely any and every problem that may arise and pushes each of his pupils to strive for greatness. He’s a wonderful motivator.”
Finally there’s the food pantry near the high school’s entrance. The idea originated with FFA alumni and New Bloomfield R-III School District Superintendent Sarah Wisdom, who also stocked it. Reichel, his class and the FFA built it (that would be his Ag Power Technology and Mechanics class). The need for a food pantry in the area is very real, Reichel says.
“Dean is such an asset to our students and district,” Superintendent Wisdom says.
“He makes connections with students and helps guide them in a direction that will impact their future. Yes, the pantry was my idea, but Dean and his students made it a reality.”
“It’s not just cows and plows anymore,” Davis says of FFA. “It’s learning about leadership as well as skills that you can use in the real world, in your future career.”
This is exactly what Reichel has shown his students.