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Texas FSA Fills Teaching Gap in School District

When Terri Trevino heard that the agriculture program in the Calvert Independent School District in Texas might be suspended due to the lack of an instructor, she immediately turned to the Farm Service Agency to fill the gap.

“I knew that it was important to keep the agriculture program active because of the town’s background and dependence on agriculture as a way of life,” said Trevino, farm loan manager for Bell, Falls, Milam and Williamson counties in Texas. “I also know how important the role of a teacher is in keeping kids interested in learning and staying in school.”

Calvert is a small town in Robertson County with deep roots in production agriculture. The school’s vocational agriculture department has always enjoyed an active student enrollment and an exceptional agriculture program, with many students showing animals in the Robertson County Livestock Show.

The area is similar to other small towns that thrive on agriculture, except Calvert is in an extremely low tax base school district. The town’s population of 1,426 is more than 65 percent African American and Hispanic. Only one-fourth of the population that is 25 years of age or older has a high school or higher education. The median household family income is $18,105.

All of these factors have played a role in the high personnel turnover in the school district. During the 2009-2010 school year, Calvert had two superintendents and three agriculture teachers.

Now they were looking for a fourth.

Banking on the expertise of FSA employees, Trevino planned on assisting the Calvert agriculture program by bringing FSA employees into the classroom to share their knowledge of agriculture with the students.

“Once I began this project, it was my desire to not just offer these students knowledge about production agriculture, but to expand their current knowledge and push what is possible with agriculture,” said Trevino.

The plan was to bridge the gap for the agriculture program by developing lesson plans on basic general agriculture and agriculture finance, which could be presented by FSA employees in cooperation with nearby Texas A&M University. In addition to the agricultural focus, Trevino wanted to incorporate many general life skills that students could use in the future.

Yet, while completing the plan and making preparation for FSA employees to go into the classroom and teach, the Calvert school district hired an agriculture instructor. But that didn’t stop Trevino’s plan from blossoming.

“I believed that FSA’s involvement could still be beneficial to the school district, the new teacher and the students, so I decided to go forward with a modified version of the original plan,” said Trevino.

That modified plan allowed FSA employees and agency partners to present eight lessons during the 2009-10 school year that covered leadership, economics, marketing, family budgeting and showmanship. One course also provided instruction on interviewing and resume writing techniques.

“Whether the students pursue a career in agriculture or a different field, the studies and guidance that we provided will be beneficial in all career pursuits,” said Trevino. “The most important thing they discovered was their ability to lead and how to prepare for their economic needs in the future,” she said.

Juan Garcia, Texas state executive director, explains the cycle of production agriculture to the students.

Juan Garcia, Texas state executive director, explains the cycle of production agriculture to the students.

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