Western Nebraska Observer - Observations all along the line - Kimball & the Southern Panhandle First

Held receives recognition at Maryland conference


Alan Held, Kimball Junior/

Senior High School agriculture

and welding instructor, recently

attended the 11th annual DuPont

NATAA in Chesapeake Farms in

Chestertown, Maryland in July of

this year where he attended and

completed the Ag academy to become

one of 288 teachers to earn

the title of ag ambassador.

Held considers the experience

to have been very beneficial but

admits that it is not something he

originally planned to take part in.

"NATAA sends out an application

form. I actually didn't fill

it out to begin with just because

your summer gets so busy with

everything else, and I didn't

know if I wanted to add that to

my plate," Held said.

However, through the encouragement

of fellow educator Craig

Frederick who served on the National

FFA as the director for the

ag side of the Department of Education,

Held decided to give in

and put together his application.

"He called me and encouraged

me to apply soI did, and I was one

of the 44 selected," Held said.

The title of ag ambassador

comes several new responsibilities

and duties that Held will have

to balance with his regular school

lessons over the upcoming year.

"One is promoting agroscience

nationwide, basically but also

promoting inquiry-based education

to other agricultural educators

at the local level, the state

level, and the national level. As

an ambassador, there are several

places that I have to present,"

Held said.

This promotion will lead Held

to attend the National FFA convention

in Louisville, Kentucky

October 30 through November 2

and present to the National Association

of Agriculture Educators

in Las Vegas, Nevada December

2 through December 6 with three

of the other ambassadors from

the ag academy.

"It's no different than any other

thing. It's commitment. Once you

step up to the commitment, that

takes precedence, and you have

to do that. Everybody thinks, 'Oh,

Mr. Held you're never around.

You're always traveling.' Well,

that's not necessarily always nice,

because you have to do all the sub

plans before you leave. It's actually

double the work load any

time you're gone," Held said.

The primary focus of the academy

and his ongoing participation

as ag ambassador is on expanding

the knowledge of inquiry-based

education and implementing it in

the classroom.

"Any time you do something

new, you're always nervous about

messing something up, but that's

one of the things we learned

about with inquiry-based education.

A lot of the times if you

make a mistake, it leads to higher

learning. That's kind of the basis

behind inquiry-based learning to

try things, experiment, see what

happens, learn from what did

happen and what didn't happen,

and correct those mistakes," Held


Held believes that the implementation

of inquiry-based education

is a step in the right direction

and makes learning certain

subjects a bit more tangible for

students by changing their outlook

on success and failure.

"I think that we need to get

more of our students who are

okay with making mistakes and

learning from them. Failure is

feedback. I'm afraid we're trying

to gear our students to always

having the correct answer every

single time. Well, when you think

back to a lot of the lessons we

learn in life, some of them were

based on the mistakes that we

made," Held said.

Inquiry-based education also

serves as a way to take a step

away from the traditional methods

of teaching such as lecturing

and taking notes in order to give

students a more active role in

the method by which they learn

material through students asking

questions and creating their own

hypotheses for why things are the

way they are in any given circumstance.

"They're going to pay more

attention. They're going to take

learning in their own hands.

That's ideally what you want to

happen. When that does take

place, the learner is engaged, and

they're responsible for their own

education. They are going to be

responsible for what they do or

do not get out of the education,"

Held said.

Not only does Held believe

that the inquiry-based education

style will help students, but

it has also had a big impact on

Held, who has been teaching for

13 years, by giving him a reason

to continue on as an educator instead

of changing his career and

going into the agriculture industry,

a move which he had been

pondering before attending the

ag academy.

"This conference actually

brought me back to where educating

is fun, teaching is fun, and

learning is fun. I think that educators

fall into the dark tunnel of

doing what they're always done

in the past and get a little scared

of changed. Inquiry education is

an opportunity and fun change

you can make," Held said.

Although he is optimistic of the

change that inquiry-based education

will bring to the classroom,

Held admits that it will not work

for everyone.

"Some students it will work

great with. One methodology or

modality of learning is not perfect

for every student. Some students

are going to highly benefit

from this. Other students might

not grasp the concept so you're

still going to have to go through

the old methods," Held said.

Held looks forward to bringing

inquiry-based learning to Kimball

Public Schools this school year

and witnessing the changes that

it has been said to make in the


"This is the best testing ground

right now with actual students.

There's no way that I can change

my whole curriculum to match

this but rather just bits and pieces

at time. I actually taught my

first inquiry-based lesson of the

school year last week, and it was

awesome. It went great," Held


For his part in the knowledge

that he gained on inquiry-based

education and the opportunity to

be part of the ag academy, Held

is nothing but grateful to those

who gave him an opportunity to

participate in instilling inquirybased

education throughout the

nation and for giving him a fresh

outlook on teaching as a whole.

"A huge thank you to everybody

who made it happen: Du-

Pont for footing the bill, National

FFA for believing in us, the

National Association of Ag Educators

for organizing everything,

and Kimball Public School for

allowing me the opportunity to

go out there and spread the message,"

Held said.


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