Bartow High’s Lexi Sanchez: It Never Feels Like Work
by K. MICHELE TRICE
Lexi Sanchez, agriculture teacher at Bartow High School, was recently named the 2023 Ag Teacher of the Year by Polk County Farm Bureau. Sanchez teaches animal science and agricultural business at Bartow High.
“The Ag Teacher of the Year and Ag Program of the Year are chosen based on the prior year’s involvement and accomplishments of the agricultural education programs within Polk County,” says Jessica Anderson, Assistant Director, Agriculture, Public Service, Construction/Industrial Career, Technical, and Adult Education for Polk County Public Schools (PCPS).
“Those teachers and programs who show a desire to promote agricultural education by going above and beyond to provide well-rounded opportunities for students are chosen for these awards,” Anderson continues.
Sanchez will be honored this month at the Polk County Farm Bureau annual meeting.
She was also selected this year for the National Association of Agricultural Educators’ Turn the Key program, which recognizes outstanding young ag teachers and which provides professional development, according to the Polk County Public Schools (PCPS) website.
“I grew up in ag, and I think I had some of the best ag teachers that ever existed,” Sanchez says. “To be up there with them is extremely humbling and rewarding.”
“For me, this makes me want to get better every year and to focus on my accomplishments for my students so they have something good to look forward to,” she continues.
“Ms. Sanchez is a motivator, and she instills a sense of belonging in her students,” says Carole McKenzie, Polk County Farm Bureau Executive Director.
“There is always a new goal to strive for in her classroom, and that teaches her students confidence and self-discipline. We can’t wait to see how the Bartow High School ag program will continue to grow forward in the future.”
There are approximately 400 students in the Bartow High agricultural program. Sanchez says she anticipates this year to be a year of growth for the program, noting that both the barn and greenhouse are full.
At Bartow High, the agriculture classes are taught through the iGrow Agriculture Academy, according to the school’s website. The academy “helps students develop competencies in numerous agricultural areas. Students are introduced to concepts demonstrating the diversity and importance in Florida.”
Content areas covered in the iGrow Academy include: horticulture, animal husbandry, forestry, agri-technology, and agri-business. “Students will gain an understanding of the environmental principles that govern our natural resources and be exposed to career opportunities in agricultural business and technology.”
Students in the iGrow Academy also have the opportunity to dual enroll with Warner University.
“I am really good at building relationships with students, at offering them what teenagers need at this stage in life,” Sanchez says. “We have unique relationships with students that really help them.
Sanchez says she and fellow teacher Nicole Collins teach toward AEST (Ag Education Services and Technology, a branch of Florida Farm Bureau) certifications.
“These certification exams show proof that students are career ready,” Sanchez says. “This helps put [students] one step forward in regards to career readiness.”
AEST certifications were developed as a result of a need within the agricultural industry, according to the AEST website. Florida Farm Bureau saw that agriculturists needed a trusted, reliable credential that could be used when hiring employees. As a result, industry-driven assessments of agricultural career fields were developed in the form of industry certifications. These certifications prepare candidates for successful careers in global agriculture, food, fiber, and natural resource systems.
Sanchez teaches her students animal science, which includes nutrition and reproductive information — “things that put kids in a pre-vet track” — and agricultural business, which she says is a pilot program.
Sanchez enjoys dealing with animals and teaching her students about them through hands-on learning with the animals in the barn. “It’s different when students learn about injections and when they actually give them to the animals themselves.”
Having grown up in agriculture, Sanchez says she was in FFA in both middle and high school at Kathleen High School and “did everything.”
“I went to all the competitions, was on leadership teams, and traveled with ag teachers,” she says. “They were my school parents and inspired me. I had a passion for ag and FFA, and I found a job that I like going to every day. It never feels like work.”