story by CAROLE MCKENZIE, Polk County Farm Bureau Executive Director
photos by MACI MAY, Bartow High School FFA
Congratulations to Selena Paul of Kathleen Middle School, who has been named the Polk County Farm Bureau Outstanding Ag Teacher of the Year!
An ag teacher for nine years, Paul had initially planned to be a business education teacher after completing her degree major in Project Management and minor in Marketing. Fortunately for the agriculture community, fate stepped in and while waiting for a business education opportunity to open up, administrators knew of her side hobbies in ag projects and encouraged her to accept an agriculture teacher position. Fast forward to today’s Kathleen Middle School agriculture program, where areas of focus include swine, horticulture, poultry, rabbits and aquaculture.
With a 36-acre land lab, KMS students are able to cultivate seven acres of row crops planting four times a year with crops that typically include peanuts, strawberries and different greens and vegetables that are shown at the youth fair and marketed to teachers and community members.
Paul’s students are excited about the upcoming Polk County Youth Fair, where they will have a whopping number of 32 entries of various breeds of poultry entries as well as cattle, goats, rabbits, horticulture and, of course, swine. Paul shares that “pigs are her passion,” and KMS students travel the Florida Junior Swine Circuit in both the fall and the summer series boasting various prestigious awards.
Future KMS ag program projects include getting their greenhouse back in shape following major storm damage. Initially planned as a shade house, Paul and her students now hope to raise tilapia along with installing other aquaculture and alternative farming systems.
Paul follows the Three-Circle Model of Agricultural Education of teaching about careers in agriculture, food and natural resources that involve the production, processing, marketing, distribution, financing, and the development of agricultural commodities and resources.
Paul reports that she is most proud of the fact that the ag program at KMS is student driven. She forms lesson plans based on what her students most wish to experience and learn about. The first order of business, however, is developing her students’ leadership skills. When asked what they appreciate most about Paul, her students unanimously reported that she has taught them to be leaders by encouraging them to step outside of their norm and keep growing beyond their comfort zones.
While inspiring her students to become leaders in their community, Paul also hopes that their community will in turn appreciate that teaching agriculture in classrooms is more than just students “going outside.” At Kathleen Middle School, Paul’s ag students enjoy a full circle learning experience that includes FFA participation, hands-on labs, animal and plant care, project management, and agribusiness lessons.
Polk County Farm Bureau celebrates Selena Paul, 2021 Ag Teacher of the Year!
Selena Paul and her Kathleen Middle School FFA Officer Team (left to right): Sunny Day, Treasurer; Karysa Browing, Reporter; Kate Daniel, Secretary; Haylie Stephens, President; Mrs. Paul; Kaylynn Allred, Parliamentarian; Ryland Lund, Sentinel; Austin Tucker, Student Advisor.
Planting Row Crops