One could say that Shay Williams-Hopper, an agriculture teacher for the Tulare Joint Union High School District Farm has had one successful year. Williams-Hopper was notified last week that she is the Western Region winner of the covenant Outstanding Young Member Award presented by the National Association of Agriculture Educators. Williams-Hopper was recognized in June as the California Agriculture Teachers Association award winner in June, thus allowing her application to be forwarded on to the national level. The NAAE Western Region is comprised of 11 states.
Williams-Hopper believes that education opens a lifetime of opportunities and strives to show her students the possibilities available in agriculture. She creates a well-organized, structured and safe environment for her students to learn through hands-on activities. With a 98-acre school farm that has 78-acres of alfalfa, a working dairy, and five career pathways from which to choose, students definitely have the opportunity to explore many facets agriculture.
“When I see their faces light up with pride, knowing that they did a good job, it makes my heart swell. It is that point I know that I have finally reached them, hook, line and sinker!” said Williams-Hopper. “Through my passion, dedication, enthusiasm, energy and hard work, I hope in some way to teach each of my students to climb mountains and reach for the stars.”
Williams-Hopper includes different activities in her lessons like guest speakers, field trips, lab experiments, and role-playing to engage her students and make her lessons come alive. Students interact with community members through job shadowing at local business and are exposed to new careers through field trips. For instance, Williams-Hopper said many students were inspired to become a veterinary technician or work in a zoo when they were able to witness an anesthetized tiger having her teeth cleaned. “In order to be effective, students have to be taught to be life-long learners, it is my hope that my students take what they have learned in my classroom and use it to explore life on the outside of these four walls” said Williams-Hopper.
In her five years of teaching, Williams-Hopper has earned her masters degree in agricultural education, has supervised six student teachers, presented at numerous conferences, and will be serving as the California Agriculture Teachers Association Tulare-Kings Sectional president next year. These activities show she is dedicated to agricultural education and works hard to support not only students, but her fellow teachers.
“Shay is the type of teacher that a district and the agriculture community wants to have in its schools,” said Vern Bargolio, principal at Tulare Western High School. “Shay has established a great rapport with her students and is the type of teacher who can influence high school students to consider a career in agricultural education.”
Williams-Hopper was raised in San Marcos, CA where she was an active member of the local FFA Program and found a love of agriculture. After graduation from high school, she attended California State University, Fresno where she earned her bachelor’s degree in agriculture education and her teaching credential. She later returned to school at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo to earn her master’s degree in agriculture education.
Williams-Hopper will travel to Nashville along with her husband Ryan Hopper November 17-21, 2009 to receive her award.