Ag Teacher Jillian Gordon Bryant Embraces Uniqueness in the Classroom

Through inclusion and diversity, Jillian Gordon Bryant works to improve her chapter, the agriculture industry and her profession.

Clarke Central High School in Athens, Ga., has a lot to be proud of, including alumni who are professional NFL athletes, famous musicians such as the drummer from the B-52s and reality TV stars. Among the top of that list of proud accomplishments is a successful, urban agriculture program that is home to a diverse group of FFA members.

Jillian Gordon Bryant is currently in her third year of teaching at Clarke Central High School, and she also serves as the school’s JR. MANRRS Advisor. Growing up, she was an FFA member in Pennsylvania and served as a state FFA officer in 2010.

“I fell in love with FFA after my advisor convinced me to compete in the FFA Creed contest,” Gordon Bryant remembers. “I did not originally want to be an agriculture teacher. I was enrolled to go to school for music business, but over and over again, people suggested that I should become an agriculture teacher. I ended up switching schools and enrolling in agricultural and Extension education at Penn State.”

It turns out, this decision would lead her to a successful career in a field where she felt she could make a real difference in the world.

“The decision to teach is the most rewarding and difficult work you will ever do in your life. The number one thing you can do for your sanity, classroom management, the success of your chapter and everything in between is to truly love your students,” Gordon Bryant says. “Showing them compassion and that you care can be life changing for students. It may sound cheesy, but it’s the secret to everything!”

In fact, her students say that Gordon Bryant’s empathy to all backgrounds and interests is one of the most unique qualities she brings to the classroom. She is especially passionate about increasing inclusion and diversity throughout the National FFA Organization.

“In any situation, I believe bringing together a diverse group of individuals provides a richer and more impactful outcome,” Gordon Bryant says. “Our chapter, being urban and diverse, must think outside the box in order to develop a Program of Activities that meets the needs of our members and community. By recognizing that ‘traditional’ programming that may exist in rural areas does not serve our urban community, we are able to create authentic learning experiences that would not occur if I did not recognize that importance of diversity and inclusion in FFA and agricultural education.”

It is through FFA and agricultural education that Gordon Bryant feels she had the ability to create personal leadership development and career opportunities that no other profession can offer. Not only is she able to watch her students grow, but also agricultural education and her students push her every day to be a better person and teacher.

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