Stubbornness may have led Allison Meadows to pursue a job in ag education, but the passion and acceptance of her students and community have made it the career of a lifetime.
Effortless. Fun. Impactful. When Allison Meadows remembers her high school agriculture teacher, those are the words that come straight to mind. After nine years as an agriculture teacher herself, Meadows now knows just how much work goes into making a successful FFA chapter look effortless.
Meadows was first “tagged to teach ag” as a freshman in high school by her teacher. “I don’t think I even had a backup plan; it was just teaching agriculture,” she says. This decision was made even more unique by the fact that Meadows did not have a background in agriculture.
“I found my tribe in my agriculture class and a niche in livestock judging,” Meadows says. “When my ag teacher told me I would be participating in a career development event or running for a chapter office, I didn’t question it. I totally bought into the magic of the National FFA Organization.”
Today, Meadows calls the Sherwood FFA Chapter in Oregon her home, and her students and their parents are like her family.
“As a teacher, I see the power in leadership development, engaging communities, career mentoring and being inclusive to all learners,” Meadows says. “Even with my most challenging students, I try and look through the lens of ‘How can I influence them to find their passion and purpose in life?’ This question drives my decisions.”
Oftentimes, Meadows finds that those same students she looks to influence are actually impacting her in irrevocable ways. The teaching profession has seen a severe exodus in recent years, and the choice to remain committed to the industry is not always easy.
“I entered the profession knowing that I was committed for life; it’s a marathon and not a sprint,” Meadows says. “I genuinely love learning and experiencing something new each day. While teaching can drain you physically, mentally and emotionally, one student can recharge you in a matter of minutes.”
Those students and moments that allow her to recharge also challenge Meadows to be her most authentic self. Meadows is a member of the LGBTQ community, which sometimes surprises her students and their parents.
“It has not always been easy, but my chapter, school and community have been 100 percent supportive of my family,” Meadows says. “All members of the agriculture community are valued and needed in order to solve our most challenging problems – regardless of ethnicity, age, gender, gender identity, disability, sexual orientation or religious beliefs. Diversity and inclusion need to be a focus in our classrooms, chapters, and communities to make sure everyone is included in the agriculture industry.”
Now, looking back on nearly a decade in the classroom and the teachers who influenced her to pursue her dreams, Meadows has once piece of advice for current FFA members.
“Don’t look at the bags under your teachers’ eyes, the monotonous wardrobe of polos, or their busy schedules,” Meadows advises. “Look at how they are impacting you. And think about how much you can impact others by being passionate about agriculture. In the course of a 30-year career, I will be able to directly impact more than 11,000 students. That is a lot of people who I can influence in the areas of career, life, dreams and relationships. It’s a lifetime of mentoring!”
To learn more about agricultural education careers, visit AgExplorer.com.