Local Teachers Adapt to Times

Posted: September 23, 2020

We asked local ag teachers/FFA advisors how they are adapting to remote, hybrid and limited in-school teaching at their schools. Here’s what they told us.


Method of Teaching: Remote

Q: How do you run your greenhouse and ag shop without students being at school?

A: For our ag mechanics courses we are utilizing online simulators to give students a virtual “hands-on” opportunity to learn.  We will also be doing demonstrations from the shop during our virtual meets with students. In our Horticulture, Greenhouse Management, and Plant Science courses students picked up supply kits from the school. These included seeds, soil, and pots that students will utilize to conduct plant growth experiments at home this semester, much like they would have done in the greenhouse. The greenhouse will probably not be utilized for bigger crops this year, but will still maintain our stock plants and aquaculture systems.


Toni Gabriel

Method of Teaching: Hybrid with about 30% of the school online

Q: How will your students participate in FFA leadership experiences?

A: Our students are adjusting to a virtual fall being offered by the Illinois Association FFA, and a virtual National FFA convention. We anticipate we will attend all of these remotely, and will be able to attend more than we have in the past, such as attending the SIU chapter officer leadership training (COLT) training.

Indian Creek

Julie Vlosak

Method of Teaching: Hybrid

Q: How will you adapt to a virtual National FFA Convention and other FFA events?

A: Indian Creek is adapting to the virtual events as best as we can! We will still be hosting practices for our teams as often as possible to regain some form of normalcy for our students. Every year, the students at IC look forward to the new opportunities in FFA, therefore we will attend as many virtual or in-person events as possible throughout the school year. The virtual National Convention was expected but a great disappointment to our students, especially the current seniors. We are hoping to still make it fun by hosting watch parties at ICHS during the week of the National Convention.


Josh Dodge

Method of Teaching: In-school with option to be remote

Q:What changes have you made to teach ag classes for some students at school while others learn remotely?

A:One of the changes that I have made to reach both in-class and remote learners is the use of Google Meet. While I teach the in-class students, I have a Google Chromebook with live video stream so the remote learners can see me. Another feature that I am using to keep the remote learners on track with the in-class students is the use of Google Classroom. This allows all students to see and access the course materials and assignments. It is a very nice tool to have. This has also lead to a great reduction in paper use. New technology always takes some getting used to, but it really makes things much easier and keeps everything organized. The biggest challenge so far has been finding alternative assignments for projects that we typically complete in the shop or in the greenhouse.

Hinckley-Big Rock

Tracey Sanderson

Method of Teaching: Hybrid

Q: How does your orchard/greenhouse operate with limited student access?

A: The orchard/greenhouse space is a perfect location for this unique time. It’s a preferred area for instruction since we can be outside and social distance. With several events being canceled, it’s been an ideal time to focus on our community and school needs/goals.

The Hinckley-Big Rock FFA Alumni started our building project this summer. The building is a wood framed steel clad, 50×80 structure. The interior will be fully finished, with areas designated for classroom activities, point of sale location, shop area, and storage.

The new agriculture building will provide additional learning opportunities and space for students. This building will provide the hands-on experience from production to the end consumer. Students will have many different roles to fill, which will offer them the opportunity to try many different aspects of agriculture, while providing a service to the community.


Method of Teaching: Remote

Q: How are you remotely teaching agriculture and harvesting your pumpkin patch?

A: We are ready for the challenge of remote teaching and will provide as many opportunities for authentic learning as possible through inquiry based activities, virtual discussions, and supervised agricultural experience projects.

While we are currently remote for classes, we are able to have students participate in FFA events in-person as long as all COVID protocols are followed. We are excited to be able to engage with our members in this way. One of the first opportunities for seeing members will be for pumpkin picking. Due to a limited market this year, we do not plan to harvest as many pumpkins, but we will have some available for sale at school and one to two community events.


Courtney Wiedenmann, Christian Thurwanger & Kara Poynter

Method of Teaching: Remote

Q: What are you doing remotely to teach hands-on labs like welding and horticulture?

A: We spent two days prepping labs to send home to our students in Hands on Skills, Ag Mechanics, Welding and Horticulture. These materials will help them simulate labs while at home using the materials provided to them before school started. With FFA still being able to meet within IDPH and Sycamore HS guidelines, we plan to hold an FFA open shop for students to build skills related to a future career in areas such as welding, horticulture and other related fields. We plan to continue to send lab materials home until we can meet back in person.