South Summit teacher digs into passion for FFA
When Jolene Christensen enrolled in the teaching program at Utah State University, she had visions of becoming a high school coach.
But it wasn’t long before that dream was dashed by a competing desire to teach agriculture and lead a high school’s Future Farmers of America club.
"I had a really awesome agriculture teacher when I was in high school," she said. "He was just a really good role model, so I decided I wanted to do what he did. I went to Utah State, and then I realized that if you teach agriculture, you don’t coach — it’s a full-time thing. There’s no time."
Now 16 years into her teaching career, Christensen is not a coach. But she does teach agriculture — and biology — at South Summit High School and serve as the adviser to its FFA club. She enjoys being in the classroom, but it’s the latter part of her job description from which she draws the most satisfaction. FFA teaches students about agriculture and allows them to participate in a variety of competitions throughout the state.
"I mostly enjoy the out of school stuff, honestly," she said. "I like to see the kids getting the chance to do all of that stuff — the travel, the trips that take. It’s cool for them to get out of school and go, ‘Oh, there’s a big world out there.’ And the kids are so fun. Most of the kids that do FFA really get into it. They’re really motivated and they really are fun to work with."
Christensen’s passion for FFA stems from her own experiences as a student at Manila High School. Her school FFA club regularly won competitions, and she saw participating as a way for students to find sure success if they were willing to work hard enough.
She’s pleased that many students at South Summit share a similar outlook on the FFA club, which has long been a point of pride for the school.
"I think it’s a chance for anybody to be successful," Christensen said. "You don’t have to be athletic, you don’t have to be tall, you don’t have to weigh a certain amount — anybody can really do it. And traditionally, kids in agriculture are hard workers and motivated to be successful. I think if you can give them something to be successful at, a lot of them get excited about it. I love seeing it."
Ever competitive, Christensen also enjoys the winning that comes along with a successful FFA club. It’s a big part of what continues to drive her in her teaching career.
"I like teaching and I like seeing students succeed," she said. "But I’m competitive, too, so I just enjoy helping students win stuff at FFA. Not necessarily because I want the trophy, but I want the students to accomplish something. I want them to understand what that feels like, so they’ll be driven to do it again."
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