Creekview High School agriculture teacher Pauline Benton, center, accepts the 2021 Outstanding Secondary/Middle School Program Award from National Association of Agricultural Educators leaders at the organization’s recent annual conference.
A Cherokee County School District program has received a national award for providing outstanding career education.
The Creekview High School agriculture program, led by teacher Pauline Benton, is one of six agricultural education programs nationwide to earn the Outstanding Secondary/Middle School Program Award from the National Association of Agricultural Educators. Ms. Benton accepted the award at the organization’s recently held annual conference.
The award honors agricultural education programs that “have developed and grown to encompass, at the highest levels, all aspects of the agricultural education model – quality instruction, experiential learning, and student leadership development – into their program.”
“Career education has experienced a renaissance in our schools thanks to the dedication of Ms. Benton and her colleagues,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said. “Our students are graduating better prepared than ever to immediately enter the workforce or to continue their skilled profession studies in college, technical school or the military. We’re very proud of Ms. Benton for this honor, which recognizes her excellence in teaching, as well as her success in enlisting local businesses and organizations and parent and community volunteers to further grow the program.”
The school’s Career Pathways program in agriculture began seven years ago with a focus on horticulture, but since has grown under Ms. Benton’s leadership to include equine science, veterinary science, agriculture electrification and agricultural mechanics, as well as a second teacher with the addition of Wyatt Wilkie. The program also has expanded thanks to the construction of a new agriculture science building, approved by the School Board and constructed using Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) revenue and a state grant.
The program is aligned with both state standards and National FFA expectations for agriculture programs, with an emphasis on inquiry-based problem solving learning, experiential learning and a personalized supervised agricultural experience (SAE) developed by each student. Last school year, more than 100 students for their SAE participated in internships or paid jobs such as in veterinary offices, on farms or at horse barns, with 35 undertaking entrepreneurial agriculture projects. Through these experiences, students worked more than 7,000 hours in hands-on career activities.
Ms. Benton said she assists students in setting goals at the start of each semester to further their career readiness. “Students reflect on their experiential learning and SAE projects through a weekly journal entry, which allows students to identify what they have learned and what skills they could continue to improve upon.”
The program’s FFA chapter additionally offers students excellent learning, leadership and competition experiences, and partnerships with the Cherokee County Farm Bureau and other organizations have provided scholarships and career opportunities.
The Cherokee County School Board and Dr. Hightower will recognize Ms. Benton and Mr. Wilkie at the February School Board meeting.