A North Summit teacher sees progress grow
Agriculture teacher Katie Silcox aims to make a difference
When Katie Silcox was pursuing her degree in agriculture education at Utah State University, she had no ambitions of becoming a high school teacher. She dreamed instead of being a 4H extension agent, deployed into communities by a university to promote youth agriculture programs.
Everything changed, however, during a three-month student teaching stint at Payson High School that her degree required. Six weeks in, the experience began to change her outlook, and by the end, she knew she wanted to spend her career in a classroom.
North Summit High School soon hired her. And after nearly 20 years of teaching agriculture and career and technology education, Silcox remains as passionate about the profession as ever.
“When I got into the classroom to student teach, what I figured out was I could make a difference, not just teach about agriculture and not just help lead people,” she said. “I found out that I could maybe make other leaders and other agriculturalists. As cliché as that sounds, that’s what mattered most to me, was that I could make a difference.”
Silcox said making a difference is something that happens regularly at North Summit. One of the special things about the school’s agriculture classes and its extracurricular agriculture program is that students of all kinds can participate. They don’t have to be smart, or athletic or popular — or they can be all of those things. What they get out of the class matters more than what they bring into it.
That spirit engenders participation and learning, she said.
“Everybody can come from all these cliques and groups and find common ground here,” she said. “I’ve tried to build my classes like that, so that it doesn’t matter what you do outside of here — you’re part of my classroom when you’re in here, and we’re all going to learn.”
Nearly every student, she said, leaves the class with leadership and learning skills that make them more prepared to enter the real world, whether they intend to pursue a career in agriculture or not. Watching those transformations is the part she loves most about her job — it makes her grateful for the discovery she made at Payson High nearly 20 years ago.
“When they just get it, and I see that a skill can be used 10 different ways outside my classroom, it’s like an adrenaline rush in a goofy, teacher kind of way,” she said. “It’s like, ‘Oh, yes!’ Then my husband is like, ‘It doesn’t sound like they did anything.’ And I’m like, ‘But you didn’t see his eyes. You didn’t see how he lit up!’ That’s what’s kept me here.”
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The Park City Board of Education is on track to place a bond on the ballot this fall to improve district facilities. The top priorities would be to put ninth grade in the high school, eighth grade in the middle school and to augment preschool offerings by expanding elementary schools.