Love of Agriculture and FFA Guides First-Year Teachers in Panola County
Veteran teachers often try to help first-year educators as they learn to navigate classroom management, but newlyweds Wes and Laura Anglin have an additional element of support: each other.
Getting a degree in education provides a great foundation for becoming a teacher, but few things in life prepare teachers for their first time in front of a room full of students. Wes and Laura experienced this firsthand in the 2018-2019 academic year. Even though there was a learning curve, they said they enjoyed the experience of being with their students. Each day was an opportunity to help them succeed, they said.
The couple leaned on each other for support and encouragement. They said they loved seeing their students’ faces light up when they understood something new for the first time, and it excited them for their future as teachers.
“They are the driving force behind what I do,” Wes said. “I love the relationship I have with my students. They motivate me to get up and go to work because everything I do is for them. That’s why I chose to become a teacher.”
Wes and Laura married in 2017 after dating while they were enrolled at Mississippi State University. One year later, they were hired by the South Panola School District. Wes teaches concepts of agriscience, animal science and agricultural mechanics to Grades 9-12 at South Panola High School in Batesville, while Laura is the seventh and eighth grade science teacher at Pope School in Pope.
With a degree and experience in agricultural education, Laura said one of the hardest obstacles she had to overcome was learning and teaching the new curriculum for her science courses.
“It was pretty hard to change from ag education to science,” Laura said. “I’m having to learn the curriculum from front to back to ensure they’re learning properly. I am the only seventh and eighth grade science teacher in my school, so it is hard; however, some of the objectives overlap in certain areas, and that makes it a little easier. I’m definitely learning a lot.”
Outside of actual instruction, first-year teachers experience challenges many veterans do not. For example, Wes had to quickly learn how to take control of a classroom and establish teacher-student relationships built on respect.
“One of my big challenges was being more of a teacher instead of my students’ friend,” he said. “I’m closer to their age and I can understand them better, so I had to make sure there was a level of respect between us to remind them that I am the teacher.”
Living to Serve
The Anglins’ backgrounds in agriculture and the National FFA Organization helped shape them as professionals. Both served multiple years as chapter officers, and Laura served as the state treasurer of the Mississippi FFA Association while she was a senior in high school.
They have lived up to the FFA motto of living to serve. Although Laura does not teach agriculture, she takes every opportunity she can to include ag-based activities in her class.
Because of her love for FFA, Laura had a dream of founding a Mississippi Junior FFA Association chapter at her school. She approached Pope School Principal Jay Cossey, who also participated in FFA during high school, with the idea. Cossey said the organization would help junior high students transition to high school.
“Knowing the impact FFA has on so many students at the high school level, I thought it was brilliant to extend that opportunity to our students in the junior high,” Cossey said. “This also gives them a natural connection when they move to the high school. These connection points are important as our students merge with another school at that level because students can often feel overwhelmed or like they don’t fit in. FFA can help them with this transition and help them to develop as leaders.”
FFA activities have taught Laura’s students responsibility and encouraged them to become leaders in their school. One of the time-honored traditions of FFA membership is receiving an FFA jacket—the historic blue corduroy symbol of the organization. When Laura’s students learned their jackets had arrived, she said they could not wait to wear them.
“I told them the jackets were here, and they had to see them,” Laura said. “We got a classroom set of jackets, and they wanted to take them home so they could show up to school the next day wearing them. I told them they had to leave the jackets at school, but they got to keep their FFA neckties and scarves. They made sure I had the jackets in the gym the next morning so they could show all their friends.”
Being on the farm and teaching in the classroom allow the Anglins to share their passion for agriculture and their experiences as teachers together. They have different perspectives of what it’s like to be a first-year teacher, but they get the same rewards from their hard work: They see their students learn and they have fun teaching.
Laura says the most important idea she wants her students to take away from her class is the fact she cares about them.
“I just want my students to know that I love them, and I think they know that,” she said. “I really value the relationships I have with all of them. Being in a small school lets me get to know every kid. I learn their strengths and weaknesses, and I enjoy getting to see their personality shine. Especially at this age, every child just wants to know that someone cares about them. I share my life with them and try my best to relate to them. There are days when it is hard to get up and come to work, but the kids make it so much better once I get there.”