Brett Lemcke Named NALP PresidentMarch 21, 2016
Toni Lawson ’99March 24, 2016
Alumni Spotlight: Katie Bigness
Agricultural Business Management, BT, Class of 2009
State Director of New York Agriculture in the Classroom at Cornell University
Where You'll Find Her Now
I am the State Director of New York Agriculture in the Classroom at Cornell University. My general responsibilities include creating and delivering curriculum trainings for classroom teachers, managing school garden grants, developing and dispersing the Agricultural Literacy Week book, lessons, and experiential-learning materials to 51,000 students across New York State, and helping to create opportunities for educators to include agriculture as a context for learning in schools across the state.
Real Life, Real Learning Goes Beyond the Campus
Many of my SUNY Cobleskill courses and field trips have helped in my job responsibilities – sometimes on a daily basis. First and foremost, my job requires me to be an effective educator. I must connect with and engage classroom teachers in order to increase their self-efficacy in teaching about agriculture with their students. I credit many of my lesson writing skills and teaching techniques I use from Dayton Maxwell’s Teaching and Learning course, one of the few Agricultural Education courses taught at the college. That same course also taught me the mechanics of developing a training program schedule, marketing efforts, budget management, and evaluation, which are skills I use almost daily.
Above all, I ensure that each and every program I teach, manage, or develop has an element of hands-on instruction. Coming from an institution that values experiential learning like SUNY Cobleskill does, it is second nature to include a hands-on element.
A recent significant experience I’ve had in my career would have to be doubling the reach and impact of the Agricultural Literacy Week program throughout the state. In this program we select one agriculturally accurate book, pair it with a hands-on lesson and companion materials, and volunteers across the state go to elementary classrooms to read, lead the activity, and then donate the book to the classroom library for the students to enjoy for years to come. Five years ago our program was hoping to purchase just 1,000 books for this program, and today we purchase 2,000 books and read to over 51,000 students in 2,700 classrooms.
Students, Take Note
It’s not only going to be what you learn in your courses that will help you succeed, but the people you have met along the way that can push you to greatness. If you make the conscious effort to become engaged in the campus community, you will be rewarded two-fold in the support SUNY Cobleskill invests back into you. If you envision a college experience that includes a hands-on approach to your studies and close community of faculty, staff, and students who are invested in your success, you should choose SUNY Cobleskill.
"I ensure that each and every program I teach, manage, or develop has an element of hands-on instruction. Coming from an institution that values experiential learning like SUNY Cobleskill does, it is second nature to include a hands-on element."
Her Past at SUNY Cobleskill Applies to Her Present Success
I had a very rich experience participating in many activities that helped direct my career path. I had the opportunity to serve as the Student Government Association President where my confidence and abilities to run an effective meeting were practiced each week, something that I now do regularly in my career.
Many times in my Ag in the Classroom work I am looking to partner with farmers or agri-businesses to connect with teachers, and I always like to turn to my peers from SUNY Cobleskill first. During our courses we had so many opportunities to share about our agricultural backgrounds, internships, and businesses we had a chance to work for during a summer or the school year, that there is always a former classmate to turn to for a favor or guidance.
My internship experience through my BT program was an exceptional opportunity which significantly helped to shape my career path. I had the chance to work for the National 4-H Council in Washington, DC as a Program Assistant for their Citizenship Washington Focus Conference. 4-H was never really part of my life until this experience, and I was exposed to a completely different aspect of agricultural education. Today, I work closely with Cornell Cooperative Extension in almost every single NYS county for many of our Ag in the Classroom programs and my time with National 4-H gave me important insight into how extension functions differently state to state, appreciation for the long and grueling hours of extension educators, along with an understanding of their history and mission on local, state, and national levels.