Southwest Middle School Katrina Lynn, Ag Teacher
story by CAROLE MCKENZIE, Polk County Farm Bureau Executive Director
photos by MACI MAY, Bartow High School FFA
The Southwest Middle School Ag Program is Polk County Farm Bureau’s Outstanding Ag Program of the Year. Congratulations to Southwest Middle and ag teacher Katrina Lynn!
A common thread in any successful school-based ag program is enthusiasm, and this can certainly be witnessed on the smiling faces of the ag students at Southwest Middle School. Eager to share their projects, SWMS ag students embody the passion that all agriculture teachers strive to nurture in young lives.
Southwest Middle ag teacher Katrina Lynn recognizes that middle school is a tough time for young people and builds her curriculum around strengthening their character and offering experiences that will build their self-confidence. In fact, their program mascot “Jude,” a strikingly regal and boisterous rooster, resides in their indoor classroom offering daily lessons in “strutting your stuff.”
With a relatively new program of four years that includes poultry, archery, horticulture and aquaponics (coming soon), the SWMS ag program offers experiences beyond what are typically seen at the middle school level. FFA involvement is also a priority with students earning multiple recognitions over the last few years in both Creed and Opening and Closing Ceremony competitions.
Most students in the program had little, if any, knowledge about agriculture before joining the program. At first interested because it “just looked like fun,” they now report that they have found a sense of belonging and the ability to just be themselves. One student shares her first FFA meeting experience and how everyone was so welcoming that she immediately knew this would be the right program for her going forward. Another student shares that her favorite memory is going to the chicken coop for the first time and being assigned to collect the eggs. “I had never been around chickens before, but it taught me not to be afraid of new things,” she said.
Archery skills and competitions are a major component of the SWMS ag program and are a family affair with Lynn’s husband, Marlon Lynn, serving as the archery team coach. The SWMS team boasts a full lineup of highly skilled competitors, with team member Jadyn Davis earning the junior division overall point winner at last year’s Polk County Youth Fair.
The SWMS ag program also emphasizes community service and students are incredibly service oriented. They regularly conduct some form of service project that often becomes quite competitive among members. In 2020, their first year of participating in the Florida Baptist Children’s Home One More Child initiative, students collected 632 pairs of new socks for children in need. This year, Katrina Lynn challenged them to double that number and the students outdid themselves when Lynn stopped counting at 1,600 pairs.
While the students credit Mrs. Lynn with teaching them patience, self-control, character and self-confidence, Lynn redirects the spotlight to the Southwest Middle administration, particularly Principal Sybille Oldham-Jackson. Lynn reports that Mrs. Oldham-Jackson consistently supports student growth and leads by example through working in concession stands side-by-side with students, attending archery practices and competitions, and always being the biggest cheerleader for SWMS ag program students as they achieve new heights in FFA.
A sign found on campus reads “Make today so awesome, that yesterday gets jealous,” and the Southwest Middle ag program does just that.
Congratulations Southwest Middle School students, administration, and ag teacher Katrina Lynn!