By Judith Brown
The Laurens County Advertiser
December 12, 2018 Edition
The Laurens District High School Agriculture program and faculty got a nod of approval from fellow ag teachers when it was announced this fall that LDHS teacher Melanie Birchmore was named the District 2 Ag Team Educator of the Year, and that the LDHS Ag Program was named Ag Program of the Year for District 2.
“Both Melanie and our program were selected by other agriculture teachers in the region,” said LDHS horticulture teacher Kyle Penland. “That’s what’s nice – knowing that it came from our peers.”
The District 2 division is a new one for LDHS within the South Carolina Association for Agriculture Educators. Clemson University and the association offer assistance and oversight for public school agriculture educators and programs across South Carolina. Now Birchmore and the LDHS program will be up for state awards in the spring.
Birchmore has taught at LDHS for 26 years and Penland is in his 8th year at the school. The fundraisers the horticulture and animal science classes offer each year allow the department to cover FFA dues for every agriculture student at LDHS, and that high participation goes a long way toward encouraging the students to continue in ag classes well beyond their introductory
classes, Birchmore said.
“Several more schools are beginning to go for 100 percent participation in FFA,” Birchmore said, “but it’s not real common so it definitely gets us noticed as a program.”
The FFA component allows the students to be recognized not just for their school work, but for their community and volunteer work as well, Birchmore said, and it all works together to develop students with skills that can take them into agriculture-related fields or success in ther
“We have alumni who are pre-vet and others working with city maintenance and grounds and with the forestry commission,” Birchmore said. “I want them to be successful no matter what, and the hard work these students do in school work, FFA or community service gives them résumé writing skills, technology skills and time management skills, and they will use them to be successful no matter what they do.”