High school ag teacher named National Elite Ms. Agriculture USA allowing her to further promote an industry she’s passionate about
As a teacher, Myken Poorman prides herself on being able to give her students hands-on experience and real-world application. She said she believes that to truly learn and be engaged in the learning process, you must make connections. For the longtime agriculture teacher at Bellefonte Area High School, Poorman brings those elements of agriculture education to students that allow them to grow and gain more knowledge of the industry.
Now, she’s able to expand her agriculture outreach beyond the classroom. In June, Poorman was named National Elite Ms. Agriculture USA after also competing at the county and state levels. It’s a title that gives her the opportunity to further promote the industry by traveling and meeting new people in the agriculture field, and educating people on its importance.
“I have a great platform to educate as an agricultural sciences teacher, but it only goes so far,” she said. “I wanted to pursue this to show my students and my community that you’re never too old to keep pursuing your passion, and that with hard work and dedication, you can achieve your goals.”
Her mission is to educate others on the various aspects of the industry by giving hands-on, practical experiences; clearing misconceptions; educating with facts; and giving resources and support needed so people can make educated choices about what is best for them.
“I want people to understand that even if they don’t live on a farm, they still need agriculture,” said Poorman, who is also the high school’s FFA adviser. “In FFA, there’s a saying, ‘Without agriculture, we’d all be naked and hungry.’ While it makes you chuckle, it’s true. My goal is the same with this title as it is in my classroom.”
FFA – formerly known as Future Farmers of America, but now just goes by its acronym – is a national youth organization that aims to promote the ag industry through education, outreach and leadership.
A student in Poorman’s class can expect to learn all parts of the industry, which includes dissecting cow eyes; learning how to administer immunizations to animals; understanding care and safety, while working with animals; completing water quality studies; researching habitats and ecosystems; understanding international agriculture and policy; learning to weld and work with engines; and more.
“There are so many different parts to the agriculture industry, and it’s my job as a teacher to find out what my students are interested in and give them experiences to learn and grow,” she said. “I like to focus a lot on careers because I’ve had students in the past tell me they want to be a veterinarian, but they’re not good with math and they can’t touch the ‘gross’ cow eye. So, maybe being a vet isn’t the best choice, however, I can teach them and we can research about the other careers available and education needed to work with animals.”
Poorman’s passion for agriculture came when she was a student at Penn State after changing her studies from environmental science to agriculture science, which she said was more aligned with her interests. After receiving a Master’s Degree in agriculture extension and education and earning a teaching certificate, Poorman said she found that passion to help others understand their connection to agriculture.
“I tell people all the time, ‘If you eat food and wear clothes, you have a connection to agriculture’,” she said. “It is an industry with so many different parts, and we rely on it every day.”
*By Brit Milazzo, public relations director, BASD