Sharing Ag Experiences
July 5, 2019
Written By Adam Buckallew
For Gary Morris, the rewards of being an agricultural educator are all about the connections he forges with his students. Whether it is discussing how to balance a feed ration in an animal science class, working together to grow plants in the greenhouse, or training FFA members for competition, the Tipton, Mo., teacher appreciates the opportunity to interact with his students and better their agricultural understanding.
“Seeing that ah-ha moment, when what you are teaching finally clicks for a student, is a cool experience,” says Morris, who grew up on a cattle farm in Olean, Mo.
Morris was inspired to pursue a career as an ag instructor by his mentors, Willard Haley and Matt Biddle, two former, long-time ag teachers and FFA advisors at Eldon High School in Eldon, Mo.
“Being around them and seeing the way they built a passion for agriculture with their students had a big influence in my life,” Morris says. “From high school on, I knew I wanted to work in agricultural education.”
Following his graduation from Missouri State University in 2000, Morris went to work at Tipton High School. As part of his teaching duties, Morris became an advisor to the school’s FFA chapter that had 60 members and was in need of rejuvenation. Morris was able to grow interest in the school’s agriculture program to the point that a second ag educator, Duane Melton, was hired in 2008, and the two men now serve as advisors to an FFA chapter that consistently has a roster of at least 150 members in recent years.
“Before Mr. Morris came to Tipton, the ag program was suffering tremendously,” says Rhonda Brauer, whose son, Dale, was an FFA member at Tipton High. “He made a complete turnaround of it and has established a wonderful program. My son was fortunate to have Mr. Morris and Mr. Melton not only as educators, but also as mentors for several years.”
Building students’ leadership skills and preparing them to compete and succeed in FFA is one of Morris’s favorite parts of his job. Last fall, the school’s parliamentary procedure team took first place at the state FFA competition and got a chance to compete at the National FFA Convention in Indianapolis, Ind.
“That was an experience those kids will never forget and the same is true for me,” Morris says. “It’s gratifying to see your students compete on the national stage and represent themselves and their school so well.
Beyond his work with Tipton students, Morris has made contributions to agricultural education in Missouri by leading teaching workshops with his peers. This summer he worked with fellow educators on ways to improve instruction in ag science classes.
“We discussed different ways to present the information we want the kids to learn, how to teach it in an enjoyable manner and activities that can help to reinforce our lessons,” Morris says.
Rachel Hudson, who teaches agriculture classes at Clopton High School in Clarksville, Mo., has worked with Morris and says he has been “a positive influence” on the beginning of her teaching career.
“Gary is willing to offer a helping hand to anyone who wants to learn,” Hudson says. “He’s made a difference for many young students and agricultural educators in the state of Missouri.”
As he prepares for the upcoming school year, Morris remains committed to sharing his passion for agriculture with a fresh crop of students.
“Agriculture is everything,” he says. “It’s the source of our food supply, our economy and our standard of living. As more and more kids grow up without exposure to farming, we need to help them understand just how vital ag is to our well-being.”