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Horticulture teacher living dream at Kentucky school
By TIM THORNBERRY
Kentucky Correspondent

LIBERTY, Ky. — If becoming a teacher is a life’s calling, then Beth Wethington received her call early in her life and is now fulfilling a dream at the Casey County Area Technology Center (ATC).

Wethington is in her first year as the horticulture instructor at the school, which serves local high school students with traditional career and technical educational programs.

“I always wanted to teach,” she said. “I grew up on a farm with horses, hay and cattle, so I ended up with an agriculture education degree from the University of Kentucky. That was the school I wanted to go to, and I’m doing what I love to do.”

Wethington’s determination and spirit are evident in her classroom - even if she looks more like a student than a teacher. She hasn’t let her youth or inexperience hold her back.

“I didn’t have much teaching experience when I came here other than student teaching at a nearby high school. My background didn’t include a lot of horticulture, either, but I think my students are learning and so am I.”

After finishing her student teaching tenure last spring, and on the advise of a fellow teacher, Wethington went to the ATC looking for a job. Her timing couldn’t have been better. David Horseman is the ATC’s principal. He said Wethington came along at the right time and has proven to be the right person for the job.

“She walked into my office full of energy and wanted the job if it ever became available,” he said.

“She told me she loved agriculture that she would love to teach. Our teacher that had been in that position had just taken a medical leave so it has worked out for her and our program. She has brought that energy to the classroom and embraced the students and because of her enthusiasm, our horticulture program hasn’t missed a beat. She’s backed up what she told me.”

One of the first projects Wethington became involved with was to grow the FFA chapter at the school. She said the knowledge students receive in such an organization was invaluable to students.

“I belonged to the FFA chapter when I was in high school, and I wanted these students to have the chance to be a part of the organization and its tradition,” she said. “What they will take away from the experience will never leave them. I want them to take away something positive out of this class everyday.”

Brandon Lee, one of Wethington’s students and vice president of the school’s FFA chapter, said his teacher’s manner is informative and fun.

“I think that with the strategies and techniques she uses makes it enjoyable for each and every student,” said Lee.

In the spirit of tradition, Wethington’s class is in the process of selling poinsettias to the community as a fundraiser. Her class has brought the plants from seedlings to the selling stage, albeit with a few growing pains.

“My inexperience has shown a little in growing our poinsettias, but we are getting there,” she said. “We started out by not fertilizing them enough, so they are a little small but they’re still pretty. I think we will be okay with them.”

While Wethington’s youth may have left some intimidated by a classroom full of high school students, she has embraced the challenge, and her students have grown to accept her despite the slight age difference.

“It has taken a lot of energy to gain the students’ respect, especially the boys, but I think it has happened,” she said. “I grew up with a lot of boy cousins so it hasn’t really been difficult. I just love the look of shock on their faces when they learn something new. It’s like the light bulb comes on over their heads. That’s what I want. “I want them to always get something from me.”

Wethington and her students represent a new generation of individuals interested in agricultural, and at least within her classroom, the future looks bright.

“I have a passion for agriculture. To me it is everywhere and it has a positive affect on everyone and always will,” she said. “How could you get a better job than teaching students about opportunities and the knowledge in agriculture? The ultimate reward for me is knowing that I could spark even the smallest interest in a student to be successful in life.”

This farm news was published in the Dec. 6, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.

12/6/2006